Monday, December 15, 2014

Who is Santa? -A Lesson in Comparison Writing

Our fourth and fifth graders spent a bit of time exploring who Santa is (or was) based on the following three passages; article on St. Nicholas, The New York Sun Editorial-Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus, and Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.  

The first step in our process was to enter into the Making Thinking Visible thinking routine entitle Chalk Talk. The learners were placed in groups of two or three and asked to spend five minutes reading an article found on the chart paper together aloud. Then they were directed to respond to the piece by writing directly on the chart paper.  During this I encouraged each learner to read and add to other's responses with a comment or a question. This process was repeated two so that all learners were give an opportunity with all three passages. 

After we have completed the Chalk Talk process we spent time comparing and contrasting versions of St. Nicholas.  During this stage, students collected text evidence and placed that evidence into a graphic organizer of their choice before completing their individual writing pieces.

We still have some work to do on students' introductions and conclusions, but overall the comparisons shown in their writing had real depth that was backed up with evidence from our text .

Friday, September 5, 2014

Interactive Notebook and Challenge Based Learning #4 -(The Set Up)

     As I stated in my first post about Interactive Notebooks last year I mentioned that when I began the process of implementing them into our laboratory I was a bit overwhelmed. This is partly due to the fact that I am a global thinker and if I were completetly honest organization has never been my real strong suite. However, as we made our through our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) projects last year I saw the true value of the Interactive Notebooks were playing in that process. I had read some of the research on their effectiveness and heard testimonies. However, it wasn't until I began to see the effectiveness with my students that I became a true believer. With the limited implementation we did last year it was obvious that these interactive notebooks were aiding in guiding and promoting my students to own both their process and their thinking. It also became clear that for my students to continue to grow towards independence I was going to have to do some more work.

      In June, after the 2013-2014 dust settled a bit, my research on different ways teachers had set up interactive notebooks began. There is quite a bit out there; on Pintrest, blogs and You Tube. A lot of the information I found was very similar, which allowed me to then weed through items based on quality.  One of the best examples I found on setting up interactive notebooks was the following video.  It is clear, easy to follow, and I especially found the the split screen to be very effective. I truly hope Mr. Strohmeyer doesn't mind me highlighting his work here.

  For obvious reasons, as the 2014-15 school year began setting up our interactive notebooks was a top priority. We have methodically labeled the cover, wrote the rules on the inside flap, set up the table of contents and numbered all the pages. I would be lying if I did not admit that throughout the process there weren't some frustrations on all our parts when pages were numbered incorrectly and/or directions weren't followed exactly. However, that was accompanied with the knowledge that students throughout this year; will be more organized, have less lost work, and ultimately will spend more time on task due to these notebooks being set up properly. That to me is time well spent!

      This week students began their first research project and we did our best to set things up in our interactive notebooks for success. We first brainstormed on what skills they needed to complete a research project, we reviewed the project rubric, broke down seven pages with different graphic organizers to hold the information and then added those page numbers to the Table of Contents. During the first twenty minutes of our independent work time, I overheard a student say to another, "This is great now I know where to put my information so I can find it." Later that comment had me reflecting about the many times I had complained about students not keeping their work organized and/or feeling frustrated over work just being lost. Thoughts which lead me to a conclusion (although I hated to admit it) that I had indeed played a huge role in this issue. How could I have expect my students to exhibit what I had never modeled or taught them? A question I will need to keep on asking myself as we continue to move forward with interactive notebook. The reality is, we are all in the learning process here and to have a true community of learners I must continue to be the lead learner. With that said, I am just so thankful for those out there who continue to share the work they are doing with interactive notebooks, because this learner here is finding it all very helpful and enlightening.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Facebook or Face to Face- (The DEN Summer Institute)

  Over the last six or seven years I have become a consistent user of Social Media both Facebook and Twitter.  Due to this there seems to be a variety of jokes and inquiries, which all seem to lead back to one question; Am I replacing my face to face relationships for online relationships?  I think that is really not a fair question, because in reality one is just an extension of the other. I have never attempted to replace my face to face relationships with online ones. Although I will admit I do have some online friends whom I interact with quite regularly and refer to as my friends, but I  have never had the pleasure of meeting face to face. Some as far away as Tasmania and I am not sure that my life would be the same without these connections. I know the experiences for my students would not be the same either and my classroom is a richer and fuller place to be since I have opened it up to the world.  It is one thing to talk, read and even see videos about concepts such as time zones, but it adds a whole new level understanding when you are in communication with friends in real time on the other side of the world.

     With that said, there are some face to face events that I am honored to take part in that helps to promote those online relationships and top on my list is Discovery Education's Summer Institute (DENSI). Each summer Discovery Education bring about one hundred fifty educators together from all over the United States, Canada and this year the United Kingdom to a week long experience. I have used the word experience, because it is much more than just a conference. Many have referred to it as the the family reunion you would choose to attend, but to me it is like summer camp when you were a child. The Discovery Education Staff go out of their way to create a space for and encourage attendees to build relationships that extend past the five days we spend together. This has been my experience and truly nothing can replace those memories we have shared.

  I believe that learning needs to be a process and that includes my own learning as well as my students' learning. DENSI in many ways is the beginning of so much new learning for me. This past summer some of that learning included: more about SAMR Model, Inquiry Learning, Augmented Reality, Grant Writing, DE Virtual Tours, and Coding. Along with that learning came a variety of other educators who are using or have used these ideas successfully and much like our individual classrooms we become a community of learners. Those relationships and that learning continues throughout the year online. I have DEN friends all over my Facebook Page, Twitter Feed, within my Glide Account, and I even have a group of DEN Stars whom I text with on almost a daily basis.  Discovery Education believes in the power of building those connections and their support in this effort does not stop with DENSI. It continues throughout the year with ongoing event, such as: #denchats each Thursday night at 8:00 pm on Twitter and DENvice on Facebook.

   As I sit here in my classroom at the beginning of the the 2014-15 school year I know I don't go in alone.  At the end of this year's DENSI 2014 Discovery Education Staffer, Dean Shareski, put a video together entitled Thank You DENSI 2014 and we all loved it. However, like learning each of our experiences at DENSI 2014 was personal and I have stolen his idea using my personal photos from DENSI 2014 to create my own Thank You DENSI video. 

A group of us met a couple of days before the conference and some of these shots were taken during that time period.

Finally, if you would like to check out archived session from DENSI 2014 here is that link.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Discovery Education Spring Virtcon and CBL

Last week I was honored to be contacted by Karen Ogen, who serves as Coordinator of Media/ Technology Magnet Program in Columbia, South Carolina, in regards to her Keynote presentation entitled "Igniting A Passion for Learning" for Discovery Education Spring VirtCon.  Her plan was to present several different avenues to inspire and challenge students in the classroom, which included Genius Hour, gamification, maker challenges and Challenge Based Learning (CBL). She then approached myself and other DEN Stars with the opportunity to share a bit about our experiences with these learning frameworks. I was sent few questions and asked to share about something I am truly passionate about, CBL. 

Since we all know that when people are truly passionate about something asking them to keep things brief is hard and due to her time constraints she had to cut everyone's section down some. However, I still had my video pieces on my computer  and I thought I would share the full version of my answers here for those still interested. 

Challenge Based Learning (CBL) Resources

iTunes U

Helpful Books
by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison

by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

by Kellie Marcarelli

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Hills are Alive"-#DENSI 2014

Well yesterday was a big day for some of us in the Discovery Education Network (DEN) and we got the long awaited email inviting us to the Discovery Education Network's Summer Institute (DENSI).  We spent the evening celebrating by tweeting, texting and Facebooking each other and even making a few travel plans.  Personally, I am beyond excited about attending and think I have done more than one version of "The Happy Dance".  However, there is another side of the coin here, and my heart goes out to all those on The Wait List. I have been there, more than once. So when I say I understand how you feel, I do. Yes, DENSI is fabulous and full of everything it promises and more, but the DEN does not just happen at DENSI. With that said, I thought I would share a portion of my written application here in hopes of encouraging someone. 

One of the fhe first things I did after becoming a STAR was apply to the DEN Summer Institute in Boston and to my surprise I was accepted. I was so excited, honored, and nervous about attending. Then three days before I was to leave my Father ended up in hospital with mysterious intestinal bleeding, which later was to discovered to be cancer (fully recovered now). I remember running to the hospital to visit him the morning I left and feeling guilty for leaving. However, my family insisted I go and the nurses promised to give me updates over the phone.  Although, my first institute was full of many highlights it was a bit tough those first several days until my father was out of the hospital. With that said, I tend to work a bit like a Crock-Pot and it takes me awhile to warm up in any new situation and at first I come off a bit standoffish. So when I applied the next two summers and wasn’t accepted I honestly thought I blew it.

Still, I  knew I somehow I needed to be more connected to the DEN, because just being in contact with these people was making me a better teacher. I continued to attend Days of Discovery and webinars, but I still felt I needed more. So in the spring of 2012, I decided to apply to be part of the Leader Council (LC) and was accepted onto the Social Media Team. About this same time, I learned that I had also won ISTE/SIGOL- Highly Commended Online Learning Award and would be presenting at ISTE. This was my first ISTE and as I headed to San Diego by myself  I prayed I would not spend the whole week alone. That statement now seems almost comical, because I wasn’t even there twenty-four hours until those online DEN connections became very real. I volunteered to take over the DEN Twitter and Facebook feeds for Discovery Pre-conference.  I was a bit nervous about it all because, I  had never used Hootsuite before and I am Dyslexic. However, I felt that jumping in was what I needed to do to be more connected and I am so glad I did. I already knew Carol Anne McGuire through DENSI Boston (and three rounds of Rock Our World) and she along with daughter Macy were the first two faces I recognized.  Honestly, the California DEN went out of there way to make sure everyone felt welcome at The Pre-Con and at ISTE. I just remember the DEN being a huge part of that week and feeling lucky to have met some of these people. After having a great time during an evening out with Discovery, that Jannita organized, Katie Warren asking me if she would see me at DENSI Montana and I sadly had to tell her that I had not been accepted. Actually, I told her that I indeed had not been accepted the last two year and that I thought I was done applying.  I did go on to say that I knew I needed the DEN and that  I would just be involved in other ways. We spoke for awhile and then she made me promise that I would not give up and I would indeed apply in 2013. At that point, I was tired and wasn’t sure what I would do. However.  it was sure nice to have someone want me to apply again.

Then last spring when the DENSI 2013 application information hit Social Media and had come out through Discovery Education’s emails I ignored it at first. Just wasn’t sure I had it in me to again apply and not be accepted a third time. Then I remembered the promise I made to Katie and with the application being a one take video I figured this wouldn’t take long. Plus, due my experience at ISTE and serving on the Leadership Council for a year I really did feel like I had a better idea about what the DEN was really about with my application on You Tube  might help spread the word about the DEN.  Once my application was turned in I did not think too much about it and just figured I had fulfilled my promise to Katie. Unlike the two years before, I was not waiting impatiently for the weekly DEN Insider to see if I made the cut. In fact, I was sort of avoiding Twitter and Facebook late on Friday afternoon to shield myself from all the DENSI chatter. Then for some reason one Friday afternoon in late March I began to get pings coming through on my phone and when I checked there were several post on Facebook and Twitter in which I was tagged. That was when I decided to check my email for The DEN Weekly Update and saw that my name was on “THE LIST”. Seriously, you could not wipe the smile off my face for weeks and I also vowed then in there to make the most of this experience. I would go early, stay late, and meet as many people as possible. So in May when Dacia Jones put out on Edmodo about flying up a couple of days early and staying at the Von Trapp Family Lodge I jumped in with both feet.  It did not matter that I did not know Dacia Jones or anyone else that was joining us, because after my California experience I realized that all I needed to know is that they were part of the DEN. Since then these women have become an important part of my world and I refer to them as my “Hills Are Alive Buddies”. 

Anyway, DENSI and LC Pre-Con were nothing short of AMAZING! I remember searching at dinner on the first night of the LC Pre-Con for Katie Warren and giving her a big hug. I am pretty sure I teared up when I thanked her for making me promise to apply again.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What is a Hero?- Our CBL Big Idea

This year in the Oneco's Gifted Laboratory have been exploring what it takes to be a hero/ heroine. From the very beginning, I felt that was important that we all have a clear definition of what qualities it takes to make a hero/heroine. 

Our first step this exploration began by pulling out heroes/heroines form a variety of different genres of literature. Students identified and recorded text evidence for the different character traits of each hero/heroine using a Frayer Model.  This graphic organizer is commonly used to define words and concepts. Our Frayer Model was divided into to four sections and served as a visual representation for students for what the character: looks like, thinks, says and does. This first step was done so that we could both get to know our character and compare and contrast the information later. 

  After, we have had time to read about several different heroes/heroines we will go back through our Frayer Models using the evidence recorded to  compare and contrast these traits and generate a master list of common hero attributes. Next we created a T-Chart with our master list of the common attributes on the right and room for text evidence on the left.

  After some practice with this graphic organizer with several more books students were asked to write and prove someone to be a hero or not. 

This hero study has brought about many wonderful discussions in our laboratory this year. It has also severed as the Big Idea of our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) Challenges, which is being heroes/heroines on Oneco’s Campus.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Challenge Based Learning - Measuring Our Solution #1

I thought others might find this helpful. These activities took about an hour and half.

These activities were completed with a group of third graders in the midst of our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) Challenge: To encourage better cooperation at recess! Throughout this challenge students have participated in activities that have covered a multitude of the goals found in the Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learner and a variety of cross curriculum standards.

The main goal these activities will be:
Florida Framework Goal 4-C:
Use and evaluate various problem-solving methods to determine effectiveness in solving real-world problems.

1.  Why do you think it is important to measure the effectiveness of a solution or goal?
2.  Why do you think it is important to keep data while you are measuring something? 
3.  Can you create a plan to measure the solution to our recess challenge?

Two pieces of chart paper with questions in the middle for Chalk Talk
-Crayons for Chalk Talk
-Student each need their notebooks and reflection journals
-Chart paper to record

Brainstorming/Focus Activity (10-15 minutes-depending on prior knowledge):
-Pull students into a circle on the floor.
-Ball will be passed and students will take time to brainstorm and share answers to the following:
    What can be measure?
    How can it be measure?
    What tools are used to measure it? 

Chalk Talk 
(10 minutes)
-Take two pieces of chart paper each with a different question in the center.
-Place each in the center of a table. 
-Students will be broken into two groups, told to grab a colored pencil and sent to one of the tables with the chart paper. 
- Without speaking students will then respond directly on the paper to that question. Students are encourage to respond to other people's comments as well.  
-After five minutes the group switches tables and to repeat the process.
-Finally, we gather back together to discuss some of the students' responses found on each chart paper.

Question found on the pieces of chart paper:
 1.  Why do you think it is important to measure the effectiveness of a solution or goal?
2.  Why do you think it is important to keep data while you are measuring something? 

Quick Writes- (15 minutes)
10 minutes write/ 5 minutes discuss
What is measurement and why do people use it in everyday life? Share some examples.

Journal Entry Analyzing
-Students will pull out their journals entries they worked on last week.
 Last weeks prompt: What do you hope to see, hear and feel at recess after our campaign launches?
-Each student will read through his/her own entry and underline anything they believe they can collect data on. 
(Hint: You should be able to tell someone what data you will collect to measure that outcome.) 
-Students will then pair up and reread entries to make sure what is underlined can be measured. The only judgement made at this point will be is can what is underlined be measured. 
-They will then share entries in groups of three or four. These groups will then make a T-Chart with measurable outcomes on one side and how they can be measured on the other.
-Together we will consolidate the list as a whole group onto a piece chart paper using post its.
-We will review the list and discuss our options of evaluation based on time, manpower and access to information. 
-Based on that criteria we will choose at least two forms of measurement. Then develop and action plan to carry that evaluation. 

Students were then return to the Quick Writes prompt and complete their thoughts. This will serve as a reflection piece for today's lesson.  

Thiss process will be assessed using a Critical Thinking and Problem Rubric that I developed based (or modified) on the Florida Framework K-12 Gifted Learners Rubric.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Interactive Notebooks and Challenge Based Learning - #3 (The Aha Board)

In my first post on Interactive Notebooks and Challenge Based Learning I skimmed over the concept of The Aha Board.  In the book Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks by Kellie Marcarelli she talks about these boards being used to hold the students' learning on the major concepts of each unit. We have modified this concept a bit to meet our needs within the process of  Challenge Based Learning (CBL) . What we have done is basically created an interactive challenge map or web. We have put the challenge in the middle and taken large Post -Its and wrote a Guiding Question on each. As students have made their way through their research they have written on smaller Post-Its the things they have learned and how they learned that under each Guiding Question.

    Oneco's Gifted Program has been working with CBL for about four years now and each year our process has become more and more refined. This would also included training students to take more ownership in the CBL process itself.  In the past, my students were able to effectively carry out CBL Challenges, but struggled to see where they were in the process especially in the Guiding Questions, Guiding Resources and Guiding Activities Components. Although, we had attempted to keep track of the process through packets and other such formats, these avenues had left us frustrated at times. It might have been that my elementary school students needed something a bit more concrete, maybe they feel more accountable now that the people entering our classroom can see their work in progress or they just enjoy putting Post-Its on the cabinet. My guess it a is combination of all those things and that is okay with me since The Aha-Boards effectiveness has certainly been AMAZING.  Since they have been introduced students have been using the evidence demonstrated on their group's board to discuss the quality of the research being done and what their next steps in the process should be. We were not seeing this type of metacognition before the Aha-Boards were introduced and my students have learn to depend on them.

Last week a few of my students and I were discussing the need to reflect on strategies that we use in hopes that they will become part of our learning toolbox. To prove my point, I pulled up my recent blog posts on our use of Interactive Notebooks and Challenge Based Learning. After reading my first post, these students turned on me a bit and wanted to know why I had just skimmed over The Aha-Boards. Honestly, they got just a little heated about my neglect in this matter.  Then these eight year olds went on to explain why they felt they were important, why we need them and why others should hear about them. I had to promise that within the next couple of weeks I would remedy the situation. I have done my best to cover everything we talked about in this post and I do hope I have done them proud. However, I promise if I missed something they will let me know. 

It is my hope to one day have these Aha-Boards go digital, but I truly felt that we need this concert model first.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Interactive Notebooks and Challenge Based Learning - #2

In my last post I spoke about how we were  implementing Interactive Notebooks into our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) process so I thought spend some time demonstrating what this could look like in an elementary school classroom. This may turn into a series of post, but for now here is a lesson done with my second grade students in the midst of their CBL Challenge: To help keep Oneco Elementary School's Campus clean and beautiful

The strategies I present in this video have been taken and modified from Discovery Education's - Spotlight on Strategies (S.O.S) Blog. I was introduced to this incredible series about two months ago and it is quickly becoming one of my go to resources when dealing with multimedia.

Please make sure to watch all the way to the end to hear a couple of students discuss their metacognitive thinking. 

Here is the blank graphic organizer I use with my kindergarten and first graders. As we make our way through different videos we use Post-its in each section to hold our thoughts. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Interactive Notebooks and Challenge Based Learning

The idea of Interactive Notebooks was a bit new to me this year and there has been a steep learning curve. Actually, this has been the piece I have been looking for awhile to round out our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) process. The CBL Framework gives us a great set of procedures. Then the Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels' book Inquiry Circles in Action:Comprehension and Collaboration helps guide the mini-lessons that need to be taught during our process. However, for us it just seemed like there was still a piece missing in our process and I now believe that interactive notebooks maybe our answer. These notebooks are set up to  provide a way for students to document, keep track of, and reflect throughout their process.

I will admit by the end of the first quarter this year I found myself a bit overwhelm by the implementation of Interactive Notebooks. There was just so much information out there that I was having trouble focusing on exactly how to go about getting started. At that point, I decided to focus on the book Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks by Kellie Marcarelli and then pull in other resources. I did this for several reasons:

1) The fact that The CBL Framework relates so closely to the scientific method. Some of my students spent time to compare and contrasting the two processes in this post Comparing and Contrasting CBL and The Scientific Method.

2) This book goes into the nuts and bolts of using interactive notebooks (hows and whys).

3) The fact the author based the procedures on the strategies described in the book Classroom Instruction that Works by Marzano, Pickering and Pollock and the procedures are research based. 

In the past, I thought and behaved as if it was my role to dictate what gets done when, but I have come to realize that way of teaching was hurting my students in the long run. My students were not being allowed to think for themselves or able to move to the next step in a CBL challenges (or really any activity) without me telling them what needed to be done. Truth is, if we want students to grow up to be independent problem solvers we are going to have to let go of the reigns some (even with procedures). With the Interactive Notebook, Aha Boards and task list my students are really gaining independence in these areas. As well as, improving the quality of their reflective thinking. This implementation is slowing down our CBL process, but I believe this is time well spent.

If you are interested in following along in our process you can find us here: 

Grade 3 - Tuesday

CBL Challenge: 
To encourage better cooperation at recess.  

Grade 4/5 - Thursday 

CBL Challenges:

The Thunder Katz: To work to improve morning snacks. 
Gummy Bears: To prevent and eliminate bullying on Oneco's Campus.  
Wolfpack: To promote students spending more time appreciating the nature on campus.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It is All About Questions

 Basically, the second objective from The Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learner states that students will identify, generate, evaluate and refine significant questions. All too often students (and quite frankly adults) just look at a issue and jump to a solution without ever taking a real look at the issue. Many times, due to lack of investigating that first solution may be incorrect or there might be a better solution not considered. This is dangerous problem solving and could lead students to make costly mistakes in the future. Like anything else we teach these skills need to be defined, modeled and practiced. 

  With that said, Twenty Questions is an activity we played at start our day for the first several weeks of school for a about ten minutes at the start of each class period. In this game, student are given the task of using no more than twenty true/false questions to discover a mystery item in the room. For our game of  Twenty Questions, we defined a significant question, to be one that we can use to narrow down the field of items in our classroom. My students were consistently reminded that when it is time to make specific guesses we should have narrowed the field down to only a couple possibilities.  For example, after learning that our item came in many colors and had a point a student posed the question,"Is it a marker?"  Which is fair question, but there were still many other possibilities our item could have been.  So I asked the student to rethink his question and he then refined to be,"Can you write with it?" Since my answer was no this new question eliminated a marker and several other items (pen, pencil...) as well, which made this a much more significant question. 

I really do believe that good problem solving starts with students learning to ask really good questions.  I truly want my students to be grown ups that listen, explore and research issues and not just make decisions or rush to get a job done. Any chance I have to give my students the opportunity to practice those skills I will, even in a game of “Twenty Questions".