Sunday, August 24, 2014

Teaching Strategies

There are a whole oceans worth of teaching strategies, some good, some bad, but many of them can prove to be very beneficially to our students and their ability to learn. Today's current pedagogy focus has a lot to do with project based learning and the inclusion of technology while steering away from whole group teaching, or lecturing. I will be reviewing a handful of teaching strategies and reviewing why or why not I will be incorporating them into my future classroom!

The Strategies:
1. Whole-Group teaching/Lecturing:
While I feel that whole-group teaching does have its place in the classroom, you can definitely overdo. The risk you run with basing many of your lessons on whole-group instructions is losing student engagement. I think that this is one strategy that I will pay close attention to when I am in my own classroom to really monitor the effect it has on my students. I am sure this will vary year to year and from grade level to grade level but an appropriate balance needs to be determined in order to use this strategy effectively.

2. Technology and Project Based Learning (and Creating for an Audience)
Project based learning has definitely proven to be a successful way to engage our students and help them learn. A trend that I am beginning to see that I know I would like to incorporate into my classroom is giving the students options of the type of projects they can work on. Whether that is to cover the same topic but use different mediums or using the same medium and covering different topics. A great example is the video I watched on Edutopia: Free Online Resources Engage Elementary Kids (Tech2Learn Series). In this particular video the teacher instructs the students to use iMovie, an Apple application, to create a 90 second video of their choosing. The students can choose from a personal narrative, a poem, a tutorial or a fictional story. Although these projects were individual the students were encourage to work collaboratively to assist each other in the creation. The students were motivated to assist each other because they were creating something for an audience, in this case the audience would be their peers. Creating for an audience or performance based instruction can be a very helpful teaching strategy that is woven within other strategies to make it that much more powerful.

3. Game Based Learning
The goal of game based learning is to make what students are doing within the classroom so fun that they forget that they are learning! This creates a powerful sense in students to use their inquiry skills to find the answers they have been challenged to find. As the teacher explains in the Edutopia Video: Adventures with Dr. Smalls: Creating a Powerful Need to Know, “‘What do they need to learn, how are we going to engage them? And what role are the kids going to be stepping into and what story are the kids going to be stepping into?’ So it's all a part of creating this narrative.” In this video the teacher uses and interactive program that engages student in learning about the body and the science behind it. Their mission is to help a doctor that has shrunk himself within his patients body get out and also cure the patient. This will lead them on a 12 week journey through the human body in a fun engaging way. I feel that learning should always be fun! I love this idea of engaging students to use their critical thinking skill and explore the topics themselves instead of just reading about it in a text book. I will definitely incorporate learning like this within my classroom!

4. Responsive Classroom - Social-Emotional Learning
Just as important as learning strategies the environment you create in your classroom can make or break successful learning students. I really liked the Responsive Classroom approach as seen in the video: Getting Students Ready for Learning. In the video they treat the students within the classroom as a family. They have morning meetings to share different experiences of each child. They also provide students with a key leadership role within the classroom by allowing them to help set expectations and rules. In the video you can see one of the students is asked how the class should transition to the next activity including laying out the expectations for this transition. I think this is a brilliant idea that can be modified up or down depending on the grade level! I want to create a loving warm environment within my classroom that provides students a safe place to learn.

5. Portfolio Based Learning (and Creating for an Audience)

The final strategy I am going to discuss today is not only a great teaching strategy but it serves as a great assessment tool for teachers and students alike. Portfolio Based learning can be done and produces in a multitude of ways but I particularly liked how the teacher did it in this video: Travel Journals: Student-Created Textbooks. Students are provided a blank book at the beginning of a module and provided a table a contents for what they are going to fill their book with. All of their learning resources will be compiled into this book including their reflections. It really works with what we learned within Brain Based Learning by providing students a framework for the knowledge they are going to create. They are encouraged to pose questions at the beginning of the module and work to discover the answers as they go through the collection of information. This creates a very personalized learning tool that students can look back on for information as well as to see how much they have improved. It also utilizes the “Creating for an Audience” strategy because students are encouraged to create something they can share with their peers and parents. Again, this is something I would love to implement into the classroom!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing Literacy

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Grading Dilemma - Opinion

Reading Tactics for Tackling the Grading Dilemma was a great eye opening experience for myself when thinking about grading plans for my future classroom. I had not put much thought into how I plan to grade. I both agree and disagree with some of the points made in the article, however I am sure that my opinions will most likely change with experience.

Here are the four ideas he discussed along with my opinions:

1. Peer and Self -- Assessments:

Even before reading this article I have felt the peer and self assessments are a fantastic tool for the classroom regardless of the age. Like the article points out it serves as a great learning lesson for students not only to be impartial, but for the fact that they must know the material in order to grade it. I will definitely use this in my classroom.

2. The One-in-Four Rule:

This is the first time I had heard of the one-in-four rule. When I first read about this I didn't necessarily agree with it, but the more I think about it I can see how it would be a useful mindset when things get busy. The part I do not agree about is letting assignments go completely ungraded or not looked at. I think this is a great place that self and peer assessments can come in. That way one out of four are looked at by the teacher and the other three are just quickly assessed by either their peers or themselves.

3. The Stamping Method:

I think this is a fantastic method for quick visual feedback. Especially for younger students where stamps or stickers can act as a form of motivation. I will definitely be implementing this method in my classroom as I plan to teach at a primary level. Even the author of the article said this was effective at the high school level!

4. Student Journals:

This form of portfolio assessment is grade for subject specific assignments. Using journals for math or science are a great way to keep notes and learning assignments in one place not only for students to reference but also for ease of grading.  I think using science journals is also a great way for project based learning. Many science professionals use journals to keep track of data from experiments and other things so by having student model their journals after a real-world application adds another dimension to their learning.

I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to reflect of the types of grading, but like I said earlier, I am sure my feeling and approach will change with experience as it should. As evolution of processes are key to education.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Response to Intervention

RTI also know as Response to Intervention is a system put in place in classrooms to help ensure that no students fall through the cracks. It is imperative that students who begin to show signs of non-understanding receive intervention quickly as to get them back on track with the rest of the class (Johnson, 2012).

Formative assessments are key to RTI. With frequent formative assessments being conducted it should be easy for the teacher to identify students who need extra help. The tiered system also helps to maintain students in a mainstream environment while still providing the extra instruction that they need (Response to Intervention, 2008).

In my classroom I will pay close attention to formative assessments conducted daily and act on the results. I will be sure to provide students with the objective of what we are working on to help them place the new information within the bigger picture. I will make use of rubrics and other guiding materials like example student work to set up a clear framework of expectations. These expectations will be reviewed daily in different ways. I think it is also important to guide students to the level you would like them at without putting them down for not quite getting there. When students need extra help it will not be a shameful thing in my classroom. I want to create an environment that helps students reach their own goals and maintain pride along the way.

At times RTI might feel like juggling but it is imperative for the success of all of our students to act early and fast with intervention strategies when students show the first signs of falling behind.  I like the idea of setting up contracts with students that are struggling with key procedures in the classroom like turning in homework assignments and/or being disruptive. By involving the student in the monitoring of these behaviors it provides them with the power to make changes and be proud of their accomplishments. Contracts will be monitored weekly with pre-agreed upon rewards provided for those students who show improvement. In addition to contracts for struggling students I would like to have all of my students partake in goal setting and tracking to work on accountability and to help reinforce the high expectations in the classroom.

Every student in my classroom matters and it will be my job to help them work towards success the best way that they can.