Join Us for the Educator Development Series on Wednesday!

The Educator Development Series. It’s not just for new teachers!  The series is designed to facilitate learning for teachers who desire to shore up their foundational knowledge and skills. Personally, I am an educator who is always in need of shoring up in at least a couple of areas!

The series is hosted monthly at Cascade Middle School. This Wednesday, choose from a variety of breakout sessions including Elementary Reader’s Workshop, NCTM’s Effective Math Teaching Practices for Secondary, and much more.  Feel free to join us for any part of the series that fits your specific need, or sign up for all of it! This is a voluntary professional development opportunity. Clock hours are available if at least three hours or more of the series are attended throughout the year.

Teaching Students How to Call Bull

The University of Washington introduced a popular course this year called something very close to (but slightly more vulgar) Calling Bull. This course was designed to give students the intellectual tools to recognize and address fake news, inauthentic use of data, and pseudo-science.

They developed a companion website (with the same vulgar name) and shared it with the world. They received enough inquiries from secondary school teachers that they created a mirror website that scrubs out (most of) the vulgarity (see they last paragraph below for an explanation of that qualifier). While I don’t personally give a… let’s say darn… about the vulgarity of the original website, having one without the reference to excrement in its title is helpful in the public school arena.

Secondary teachers, especially teachers of contemporary world issues courses, may find the resources on the Calling Bull website helpful.

My favorite resources are the case studies which illustrate real examples of instances where a good bull detector would be helpful for consumers of information to have.

I also like the Tips and Tricks for Spotting and Calling Bull that explain how to approach information

There are also videos of lectures that address such topics as causation versus correlation, the manipulation of visual data, and reproducibility. These videos have not been scrubbed of the vulgarity described above so use with students is not advised. That said, they can still useful to the harder-to-offend teacher who wants to better understand these (and other) concepts as they relate to spotting and addressing bull.

What’s the Work During Modeling?

Having looked at conceptual modeling in science last spring, this might be a good time to consider some questions about instructional modeling in any content.

Instructional modeling of strong and weak work is a key practice for helping our students meet their learning targets. Sam Bennett emphasizes modeling during mini-lessons and catches in That Workshop Book as a way for students to develop as readers and writers.

So what are students expected to do during the time that teachers are modeling? Do students know what they are expected to do? How can we help them get the most out of these minutes? Perhaps we need to engage students in some meta-modeling: demonstrating the thinking and reflective practices that we want students using as they observe us modeling. Metacognition is critical to all phases of learning, including instructional modeling.

Modeling strong and weak work is included as the second strategy of Jan Chappuis’ Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. While it is a common practice to show students positive examples of work that is proficient or exemplary, sometimes we forget the value of modeling weak work. Not wanting to point fingers at struggling students, we might avoid sharing examples of student work that needs improvement. But in order to help students notice and be able to articulate the differences between strong and weak work, we need them to observe, discuss, and make comparisons for themselves. The act of comparing and identifying areas to improve becomes the student work during modeling. Two ideas for making modeling weak work a safer activity for students:

  1. Using the teacher’s “work” as a weak example. This provides a safer opportunity for students to examine work critically as they provide feedback to the teacher instead of one another.
  2. Looking at weak work or incorrect responses and asking “Why might an intelligent person have thought ____?” This creates an opportunity for students to be critical and identify misconceptions, while still honoring the thinking of students who might hold those same ideas.

What strategies do you use to help students get the most out of instructional modeling? Please share in the comments below!

 

ABCs of PBL (Project Based Learning)

If you have been hearing the term PBL (Project based Learning) bouncing around and felt intrigued but too busy to dig in, here are a few resources that can get you started:

  1. Gold-Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements
    If you want to get a solid overview in under four pages, start here.
  2. Minding your Ps and Qs for Better DQs
    If you have a pretty good idea about the basics of PBL but feel the need to know more about developing engaging and effective DQs (driving questions) around which to build a project, start here.
  3. BIE Project Search
    If you are the type that would rather see something to understand it than read about it, go here and poke to find a project plan built around  a topic of interest to you (and your students).
  4. 20 Days to PBL
    If you are the type that just needs to dive right in and try something out, try this plan (developed by Texas PBL teacher and instructional coach, Erin Starkey) for getting students ready to engage in the team work, problem solving and critical thinking needed for PBL to be successful.

Covington’s Math Teachers: Meeting Their Students Right Where They Are in Their Learning Journey

 Covington’s 7th grade PLC decided to tackle a common problem by collaborating and ultimately creating a “just-in-time” learning experience for their students.  This team of math teachers wanted to figure out how they could support their students in filling in knowledge gaps while still moving forward with the 7th grade math standards.

We all know firsthand that if we aren’t using a subject or chunk of knowledge, we are apt to forget it. With this acknowledgement in mind, the teachers decided to use their PD time to create a data base of videos, notes and practice that students can access any time via ItsLearning and OneNote.

The goal is for students to access this digital resource twice a week for 20 minutes while the teachers meet individually with five-eight students during this work time. While the rest of the class is accessing this “just-in-time” content, the teachers are conferring with students on an individual basis and learning more about each student’s learning journey.

Linking the Known to the New

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I have a confession to make. Despite working in the curriculum department, despite quite a few years in this education field, and despite reading, researching, and hours of discussions with colleagues…I’m still trying to figure out what personalized learning is.

Good news, though, if you’re sitting next to me on the same gently rocking boat–it’s OK. We still have time. In my case, things became clearer when I listened to students.

Last Monday night I drove my two boys to Covington Middle School for their 6th grade orientation/showcase night. Wearing both my educator and dad hats, we toured familiar hallways (to me, at least; my 5th grader’s eyes bulged a bit at the rows of lockers and the open staircase in the entry, “Is this school really TWO WHOLE STORIES?”). I slyly introduced him to some 6th grade teachers, and embarrassed him in front of Mr. Gourde, the principal (“I can text him anytime, you know.”). Continue reading “Linking the Known to the New”

The Power of Brain Breaks

As I was reading 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong by John Antonettti (our keynote speaker for One by One 2017), I learned some very interesting facts about the human brain. Antonetti, in turn, discovered these facts from Brain Rules, a book written by molecular biologist John Medina. One of the twelve big ideas in Brain Rules includes the notion that exercise boosts brain power.

I saw this firsthand with Brian Pederson’s 8th grade math students when I visited his classes.  Brian says, “Sometimes I can just tell that they (my students) are very tired and need an energy boost, or just something to make their brains kick on again.”  As a result, he tries to have a brain break each class, specifically during the last half of class. From what I saw, his students very much look forward to them.

Brian said that  brain breaks usually last about 5 minutes but some can go longer or shorter. When he and his students are pressed for time, he “will sometimes have them do a very quick, 30-second break, such as ‘go high five 10 different people’ or ‘go and touch 10 non-adjacent chairs.’ The students appreciate even the small breaks.”

 

I asked his students to capture some of the brain breaks on video for us to share with other classes.This video gives you a view into one of the many brain breaks that Brian uses to re-energize and re-engage his students throughout his 80 minute periods.  This one is called “Pass-Clap”.  Brian is more than happy to share his resources…thanks, Brian!