Sunday, January 22, 2017

Open-ended Questions

We are a little more than a month away from the dreaded “Open-ended Questions.” Open-ended questions are the way to introduce critical thought.  I see it from my first grade daughter’s interaction with text. Instead of getting started right away, the teacher first asks them to look at the front cover. She then asks them to make some guesses about the story based on the title, illustrations and any other information they can find on the front or back of the book. These open-ended questions allow students to analyze the content, make guesses based on vocabulary on the cover and discuss the reasoning behind their thoughts. In short, before even cracking open the book, they've already thought critically and analytically.
With all of our talk about making the classroom student centered, practicing how to answer open-ended questions is a great way to get students involved.  Open-ended questions typically require more than a one-word response, students develop language and vocabulary skills.
The video below shows students working in groups, using specific details from the text to draw inferences and answer a question about the text.
This week during PD we will be discussing inferencing and open-ended questions.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Active Learning

Active Learning
"Active learning" means students engage with the material, participate in the class, and collaborate with each other.  Don't expect your students simply to listen and memorize; instead, have them help demonstrate a process, analyze an argument, or apply a concept to a real-world situation.
Active Learning Strategies
  • Think/Pair/Share & Write/Pair/Share
Think/Pair/Share and Write/Pair/Share are activities that allow students to formulate an answer on their own to a question.  Then the students pair with a partner (or partners), discuss, and compare their individual answers.  After a few minutes of discussion amongst the pairs, the instructors ask groups to report their findings to the entire class.
  • Minute Papers
A way of informally evaluating student understanding of difficult concepts is to ask students to take out a sheet of paper and to write an answer to a question about the current topic in 2-3 minutes.  The question can simply ask the students to summarize the most important point of the lecture or to list what was the muddiest point of the subject.  By reading these brief papers, the professor can gage the students’ comprehension and adjust the instruction.
  • Letter Home
This is a variation of the minute paper that asks students to write a letter home explaining a concept in simple language.  The process of translating the concept into simple language helps students process and connect the ideas to former knowledge.  The letter home also allows informal assessment of student comprehension.
  • Concept Mapping
Concept maps are visual means of showing relationships or connections between concepts.  Ask students to represent the various components of a topic in a concept map that uses lines to connect how various terms relate.  Concept mapping helps students to organize and identify how ideas relate in multiple ways.  Students can compare their concept maps to identify the most helpful visualization of the information.  Faculty can assess if students are drawing appropriate connections between the concepts.
  • Cooperative Groups in Class
Have students work on problems, questions or issues in groups of three to five.  This strategy works well when you give each group a slightly different problem and ask each group to become experts concerning their problem.  Have the groups appoint a representative to report their findings, solutions and dilemmas concerning the problem.  While the groups work, the teacher circulates to observe, ask further questions and keep groups on task.
  • Note Check or Note Comparison
Occasionally, ask students to compare their notes with a partner.  This exercise allows students to see how other students take notes; it also gives students the quick opportunity to reconsider what was important in the material.  Sometimes students discover that they missed information that another student sensed was important.  Ask students to share where they found discrepancies, concurrencies or interesting insights.
  • If You Could Ask One Question
Have students write one question about the material on an index card that they would like further explored.  Then have students work in groups to discuss the questions and formulate answers.  This can generate great conversations about the material among the students. Collect the index cards to see if the students have similar questions that require further clarification.  Some faculty members ask students to formulate questions for a test or quiz.  This can help instructors to see if students are identifying the most important information.

Monday, October 31, 2016

10 Innovative Learning Stations That Get Students Reading
By Shelby Scoffield

Whenever I would introduce a new novel to my students, I always got the same reaction: Students moaned and groaned about the storyline, expressed their lack of interest in the author’s writing style, and proclaimed their everlasting boredom with the class as a whole. In order to avoid student complaints, I decided to implement book clubs in my classroom—students now have the opportunity to work in groups and choose what book they as a group want to read for a given unit.

In order to make this work, there are a few things you should do. Have the students work together in groups of three or four, and offer the groups their choice of books—you should select options that ensure that students are still following Common Core standards. Next, have each group create a reading schedule.

In my classroom, I use the station rotation model of blended learning. I set up five or six stations around my classroom. With their groups, students walk into the room and look at the assignments listed on the whiteboard. They then pick the assignment that they need to develop and go to the designated station.

I decide which is the most important learning station they need to work on for the week, and I work with each group at that station. That way, I’m able to assist them and make sure they master certain skills. I usually work with one to three groups per day at my station, and after that I’m constantly monitoring student progress around the classroom.

10 Ideas for Engaging Learning Stations

These are learning stations that I’ve had success with. As I mentioned, I don’t set up all 10 every time we work with stations—I’ll use five or six of these at a time.

Annotate the Text: Have students identify important elements of the book as they read. Diigo is an excellent resource.

Character Profiles: Have students create profiles of significant characters. They can use Glogster to build a collage of pictures and details about each one.

Interview the Author: Have your students read about the author of their book. The group then composes questions and answers, and records an interview with one student playing the interviewer and another the author. Students can use tools like Snapchat and WeVideo to record themselves.

Tone/Mood: Have students identify the tone or the mood in different passages throughout the text, and then have them record themselves reading quotes in that tone or in a way that evokes that mood.

Theme: Have students identify a major lesson the author is trying to teach. Create a movie poster that portrays that lesson. This can be done on paper or using Google Drawings.

Movie Adaptation: If there is a movie adaptation of the book, have your students watch clips on YouTube. They can take notes using and compare the clips with the book.

Plot Development: Have students create a timeline or Google Docs presentation of major events in the story. Tiki-toki is a good resource for creating timelines.

The Bigger Picture: Have students relate a major issue in the book to something going on in the world today. Newsela is useful for this.

Video Blogs: Instead of answering a traditional journal question about the book, have students record themselves talking about the book. Flipgrid works really well.

Goodreads Chat: Have your groups participate in a chat about their book with the community at Goodreads.

I have discovered that allowing my students to pick from a variety of task options creates student buy-in and valuable opportunities for academic growth. They enjoy having the choice of books and activities to complete, and take advantage of the opportunity to explore their creative side. Students often approach me and ask me if they can use a certain program or do something different for an assignment, and I’m always eager to see what they end up doing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Extra Care


This past week Gavit has a lot to proud of, especially when it comes to our students. Our students who are in extra curricular activities really shine. We have an undefeated MS football team, a conference champ HS volleyball team and a HS football team that has made some tremendous strides; but I think the one thing that tugged at me the most this week was watching the HS cross country team compete this past Saturday. The way they interacted with each other and supported each other was a true sign of family. It was about achieving personal best with the support of each other. 

I know that all of you have your own night/weekend responsibilities and obligations, but if you ever want a pick me up and the need to really feel appreciated, attend one of our after school activities. You will see our students shine.

It's important to take an interest in the things students love if you want them to take an interest in what you love. I never encountered a student that wasn't happy to see a teacher at one of these events. It's always big smiles and giant waves to get attention. For some of our students, attending one of their events is more than any of their family members ever attend. It's a simple act to show that the students matter.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Student Shadow

Last Monday, I shadowed a high school student. I realized that there is a big difference when it comes to compliance and actual learning in the classroom. Unfortunately, as the role of the teacher, it’s easy to get lost somewhere between the two based on our own experiences of how we were taught.
Most teachers were concerned with compliance which looks like:
  • Being  Still
  • Being Quiet
  • Being Orderly
I will have to admit, it was very difficult for me to sit for 50 minutes times 7 and not talk, not to mention sitting still.  I caught myself a few times having side conversations with the other students to get their views on the topic or to help me understand the lesson.  Many of the teachers did not map out the class objective: "By the end of class today you will be able to.....  Keep in mind that you as the teacher always know the map and how each lesson falls in that map, remember to COMMUNICATE that to the students each and every day.

Continue to remember what learning and engagement looks like:
  • Students asking each other questions to figure out a solution to a problem.
  • Higher-order thinking skills in action.
  • Movement, and sometimes noise.
  • Respect for one another while speaking or listening.
  • Sharing ideas and opinions on topics and concepts with a partner or group every ten minutes or so.
  • Collaboration
We want kids to be active in learning. We want kids to enjoy coming to our classes and learning.
Compliance comes with rapport. We want active learning and engagement followed by compliance with our classroom expectations for each other. Of course we are going to have moments when kids need to be still and quiet for various reasons.

Respecting all students for who they are is one of the first steps. Setting appropriate expectations and sticking to them consistently will cater to our new version of compliance, too. Allowing students to take some accountability and responsibility for their work and actions within the classroom sets everyone up for success in the moment and into the future. There’s no reason to make anyone’s life any more difficult than it truly needs to be.

What are some of the ways you get your students engaged?

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Increase Student Ownership By Using Choice Boards

Over the past few weeks we have been stressing the move toward student centered classrooms/ environments.  I’ve seen a shift towards less teacher talk, teachers using group work and teachering incorporating technology.  An excellent way to increase student ownership of learning in your classroom is through the use of choice boards.
Choice boards allow students to choose how they will learn. When teachers give students choices as to how they will show what they have learned, students become better problem solvers, more creative and more engaged. Structured like a Tic-Tac-Toe board, choice boards offer a series of activities that focus on students’ specific learning needs, interests, and abilities. Students decide which activity they are most comfortable completing first, and once they master it, they can move on to more challenging activities.
Choice boards are easily adapted across disciplines and grade levels, and give students an opportunity to showcase the skills they’ve mastered, practice new content and skills, and extend their learning.
Below is an example using Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Facts or ideas which are important to you.

A lesson about your topic to our class.  Include as least one visual aid.

A diagram, map or picture of your topic.

Two different viewpoints about an issue. Explain your decision.

Videotape, or film part of your presentation.

Something to show what you have learned.

Some part of your study to show how many or how few.

An original poem, dance, picture, song, or story.

Something to show what you have learned.

Others to learn their opinions about some fact, idea, or feature of your study.

How your topic will change in the next 10 years.

A model or diorama to illustrate what you have learned.

An original game using the facts you have learned.

And recite a quote or a short list of facts about your topic.

An editorial for the student newspaper or draw an editorial cartoon.

Two things from your study.  Look for ways they are alike and different.

More Choice Board Resources:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Student Centered Classroom and Reflection

Combining the first week's charge of "student centered learning" with last week's focus on"reflection,"  take a moment and read the bullets below.  Self reflect: How many of those bullets are present in your class today?

  • Students are working at their own stations- choosing where to learn based on what works best for them.
  • Students are working at their own pace– for example, one student may be way further ahead than another student in math.
  • The teacher has classroom management strategies for handling the differentiation.
  • Student work is visible in the classroom and the hallways- and all students are represented.
  • Objectives or lesson plans are visible. Many students are visual learners so the classrooms is organized. It is clear what students are doing and working on.
  • Students are doing the bulk of the work and the talking. (In other words, don’t be afraid of a loud classroom).
  • Students are working on various projects- they are doing hands-on, real work.
  • Students are using technology to learn more about their own interests or to move at their own pace.
  • There is a high degree of student engagement which looks like enthusiasm, excitement, and passion. (If you see a lot of bored students, it’s probably a good idea to ask why)..
  • Adults are talking to each other respectfully and learning from one another. Adults are modeling the ways students behave. If the adults are having fun, connecting, and learning from one another, the students will too.
  • Are the kids having fun? If there’s no joy, there’s no learning