Meeting a Rock Star

A few years ago Eddie Vedder threw me his tambourine during a concert. I like to fantasize that he picked me out of the crowd because my praying mantis-like dance movements caught his eye; in reality I just out-jumped the people around me to snag it spinning in the air above our heads. Still, I felt connected to my musical idol in a way I never had before. (Humor me here.)  Continue reading “Meeting a Rock Star”

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!

 

Indigenous Peoples Day Offers Authenticity to the History Classroom

It is admittedly difficult to authentic connections to the history students are learning about but connections can be found. For years an authentic debate over the existence of Columbus Day as a federal holiday has been roiling.

Real people in real communities all over the nation, including several in the state of Washington have questioned whether honoring Columbus is appropriate given the history of his personal actions and the history on the Western Hemisphere since he stumbled upon it in 1492.

Engaging students in this authentic debate with a possible real audience of our own city council or state legislators can make for an engaging connection between centuries-old history and the world today. Click here for details about how some high school students recently addressed the city council of Edmonds, Washington on this issue.

 

 

 

Jennifer LaGarde Working With Evergreen Teacher Librarians

We are happy to share with you that Jennifer LaGarde will be working with us this year helping to support the work of our Teacher Librarians. Jennifer is a nationally recognized school librarian and she works with school districts around the country providing professional development and planning support. We are please to have Jennifer working with us throughout the 2017-2018 school year.

This week Jennifer is visiting 9 of our schools, and will be helping to lead our elementary teacher librarian Job-a-Like meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

 

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Is Makerspace just a Fad or Buzzword?

 

downloadWhen the term makerspace first popped into the lexicon I was less than impressed. The idea of rebranding the arts and craft studio into a place where students could do arts and crafts, and make stuff, seemed like calling a large coffee a Venti coffee. Just a rose by another name.  Then variations on the idea- makers, maker manifestos, and maker fairs sprung up.  This buzzword was gathering a following. Then the precocious little term starting hanging with the in crowd.  Combining in books and article with heavy hitters like mindset, Design thinking, and Project Based Learning. even those awesome twins STEM and STEAM where hanging out in makerspaces.

Soon places like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Stanford had makerspaces, and maker clubs and maker conferences.  At that point, I had considered the possibility that makerspace had either changed into something more than just a hippy-dippy art studio or however unlikely that I may have jumped to a conclusion rather than actually looking into a new idea. So with a more open mind and a venti large cup of coffee, I began to explore what a makerspace was and what its movement wanted to do in education.

To be honest, a makerspace can be a studio for all kinds of crafting, so my first impression was not completely wrong.  But thinking of a makerspace as a studio, in the same way, my parents called the spare bedroom an art studio is akin to thinking of my cell phone like the kitchen phone they shared.makerspace-feature-image

In its truest form, a makerspace is where all those other terms go from theory to application; a growth mindset is built from opportunities to try, explore, and tinker without fear. Design thinking is just a formula for engineering solutions by taking apart the issue and prototyping possible solutions, and PBL works best if students have a place and resources to make it happen. Within those contexts, the term is more than an extra room.

The whole maker movement is also more complex than just the re-designation of classroom space. The STEM people have shown that with plenty of research; a study from The Carnegie Corporation’s Institute for the Advanced Study Commission on Math and Science Education, concluded that we need to move from the current system of “telling” kids about STEM topics to helping them develop the inquiry and problem-solving skills in more “hands on” and “relevant” ways.

 

In a more concert sense, the maker movement confronts what the internet has already taught us about today’s students. Back in 2004, the Pew Institute did a study that found by age 12, over 71% students had “contributed to the internet.” in the form of blog posts, videos, music files and graphics. (that was before either Twitter or Instagram.) Not everyone wants to drop an original track on Soundcloud or post a video on YouTube. It is however, human nature to build, create, or tinker, we are internally wired to make.  It is both an outlet of individuality and a fostering agent for curiosity, those same qualities the current school system stymies.

Makerspaces are not a panacea for an educational system that needs to be re-engineered. They come with unanswered questions about formative and summative assessments, curricula connections, funding, and access.

Makerspaces are a step forward on a path that puts less distance between the shop class and chemistry lab. Makers, by both design and definition, are resilient to failure, empowered to change, driven to explore and excited to learn.

There is a chance that the term makerspace is a buzzword that will fade and be replaced by a chicer phase.  But there is little doubt that this is a good idea for education.

Dual Immersion: Carrying the torch for linguistic diversity!

I am so proud to work in Evergreen Public Schools where programs and people demonstrate the power of linguistic diversity that our students bring to our classrooms. The Columbian featured our Dual Immersion program that recently rolled up to Wyeast Middle School.  Our elementary Dual Immersion schools, Marrion and Pioneer, are the foundation. It is in these elementary schools where Dual Immersion students, English-learners and English-only, begin a lifelong journey in which both Spanish and English open doors to countless opportunities and pathways to success. Please take a minute to read about the fabulous work our schools are doing in carrying the torch for linguistic diversity!WYE-dual-language_08