Helping ALL Learners

SMART Chapter 5 had a couple different strategies for benefiting all students in the classroom that I found most influential. The first strategy is called the New American Lecture. The teacher provides each student with a graphic organizer that outlines the lesson for the day, and after lecturing for about 7 minutes while the students follow along with the outline, the teacher stops and asks students follow up questions to make sure they are grasping the major concepts. Differentiation can be made for students regarding the graphic organizers, because those students who do not need as much assistance taking notes and following along can be instead encouraged to take down their own notes. This strategy is beneficial for all students, but especially those with short attention spans as the teacher is constantly stopping every 7 minutes after lecturing to engage the class in discussion.

Another important strategy that was fleshed out in this chapter is meaningful grouping through teacher-led small group discussions. Small groups can be organized by readiness level, allowing the teacher to make changes to instruction where needed. An interesting concept about small groups that this chapter brought up is that it “allows teachers to work both backwards and forwards with students who have high potential but also may have gaps in their learning.” The teacher-led aspect of this strategy also allows for the teacher to individually get to know her students and their needs, and allow the students to feel important in the classroom rather than a small part of a whole.

Advertisements

Strategies for ELL Learners

The article I chose for today gives multiple strategies for effectively teaching ELL students in the classroom, along with a video. There were five strategies listed, but out of these the three that I thought were the most influential were:

  1. Knowing the students’ background knowledge. For instance, a history teacher cannot assume that all students already know all about the United States’s history that would have been taught in previous grades, because some students could have possibly just moved here. Knowing where each student comes from and being able to maneuver lessons to fit their needs is important when teaching ELL students.
  2. Purposeful Grouping: This strategy reminded me a lot of grouping low-achieving learners with high-achieving learners. The article says that it is most beneficial to ELL learners to use heterogenous grouping, to increase their interaction with fluent english speakers. If ELL students are only working with other ELL students, it will be much harder to increase their language proficiency and confidence speaking the language.
  3. Using Scaffolding: The point of scaffolding is increasing autonomy over time. Types of scaffolding the article references are graphic organizers, visual aids, and peer help, and over time such aids can be taken away to increase such autonomy.

Article: https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2013/10/25/strategies-for-ell-instruction/

Why is a Flexible Classroom Necessary for Student Success?

The first article for today’s reading focused on the importance of differentiation in the classroom, which is basically teaching in a way that acknowledges student differences and caters to the students’ individual as well as group needs. The idea of flexibility thus presents itself in the form of the teacher’s flexibility for noticing and catering to such differences, rather than teaching in a “one size fits all” way. The article touched a lot on the fact that in today’s classroom, there is more and more diversity–learning disabilities, poverty, and language barriers are just a few examples for why students are needing extra attention and differentiation. When a teacher is understanding that her students learn in different ways, the students will better flourish and succeed as their own individual needs are being fulfilled. This article also brought up an interesting point that teachers should avoid grouping students always with those of the same level, but should instead try to group students by varied levels of learning so that lower level students aren’t “stuck” at the bottom, with little to no chance of working their way up. It might be comfortable for teachers to want to group students based on their learning abilities, but learning to be flexible for the sake for the students will ultimately lead to student success.

The second article focused more on the students’ flexibility in the classroom, through the notion of cooperative learning. Two main aspects are required in order to maintain cooperative learning and this is positive interdependence and individual accountability. Although the teacher plays a major role in maintaining cooperative learning structures, the students themselves are in charge of working together as a group through bringing their own ideas to the table as well as listening and understanding multiple points of views. Because of this, the students themselves must use flexibility to reach a certain communal goal. Such collaboration and flexibility is necessary for  student success because, as the article notes, deeper levels of thinking are being used when students work together as a group and work with multiple viewpoints than when students are merely working on a worksheet individually or listening to a lecture. Such cooperation is also crucial for real world experiences, and can allow students to adapt more easily to such situations after they leave school.

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/differentiating-instruction-strategy

The video that I chose for today is from the teaching channel, and focused on a 7th grade world history teacher. This teacher used differentiation within her classroom through the use of a “learning menu”. After finishing a chapter in the textbook, the students go through this learning menu and pick one activity they would like to complete from various options given, and they do this for the “appetizer”, the “main entree”, and the “dessert” courses. The appetizer focuses on literary skills, the main entree is focuses on the bulk of the material learned, or the important material, and the dessert is a summary of the whole chapter. Each student is following the same format, and is working to reach the same goal at the end of the chapter, but the way they go about this learning through the different activities they choose is entirely up to them.

Effective Performance Assessments

In chapter 7 of Understanding by Design, six requirements were laid out for creating an effective performance assessment: They are realistically contextualized, require judgement and innovation, ask the student to “do” the subject, replicate key challenging situations in which adults are truly “tested” in the workplace, in civic life, and in personal life, assess the students’ ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skill to negotiate a complex and multistage draft, allow appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.

A performance assessment idea that I have for day four of my unit plan on figurative language is to put the students in groups of 4 to 5, and have them come up with popular songs that they listen to that utilize different forms of figurative language. Once they have pinpointed a specific song, they will work as a group to uncover what the underlying meaning of that figurative language is, and finally, how this shapes their perception of the song as a whole. This activity follows through on all six of the requirements listed above, for multiple reasons. For one, this “do” activity is culturally and socially based, and requires students to utilize aspects of their society in which they live in and apply this to what they are learning in school. This will teach students that the material is not only relevant, but it can be fun as well. Secondly, through this group dynamic, the students are forced to negotiate varying ideas and understand that there is no one-way of going about the activity, and thirdly, students are able to share this knowledge with others and perhaps reevaluate their own ideas through other groups’ sharing of theirs, which allows for deeper thinking as a whole.

Classroom Questioning

Mistakes teachers use when asking questions in the classroom:

  1. Teachers often pose questions that require only recall rather than deep thought, which doesn’t encourage discussion and further learning within the classroom.
  2. For the sake of time and covering all of the required standards, teachers will oftentimes answer their own question instead of letting the students take the time needed to answer.

Solutions:

  1. During class time, ask the students questions that not only show that they understand the basic recall aspect of the material, but also shows that they are thinking on a more critical, analytical level. By doing so, more questions will naturally emerge and will force the students to question or elaborate on their own opinions on the question asked. An example given by the article is instead of asking, “What is a renewable resource?” ask “How would you convince a friend that it’s important to new if a resource is renewable or not?”
  2. Give students at least 3 to 5 seconds of wait, or “think” time, to answer the question, and fight the initial reaction to shy away from silence for fear of wasting time or feeling uncomfortable. Let the students know that this is what they are expected to do so that everyone is on the same page. These extra seconds will not make a difference in content covered in the long run, but will prove extremely beneficial for the level of understanding going on in the classroom.

Questions:

Memory:  What is figurative language? What is a hyperbole?

Convergence: How do the comparisons made through similes differ, or change the overall meaning of the text, from metaphors?

Divergent: Suppose you had to create a metaphor for friendships. What would this metaphor be and why?/ How might the reader benefit from the author’s use of figurative language versus literal language?

Evaluative: Is figurative language a useful tool for authors to elicit meaning within the text?

Formative Assessment

How can I utilize formative assessment to influence one instructional decision in my lesson plan? Based on exit cards that focus on figurative language given to the students at the end of the first or second day, the next day (my lesson plan day) I can utilize the students’ answers to determine how I will form groups for a specific activity on figurative language in advertising. The group that, at the most, understood the basic definitions of figurative language and some examples (metaphor, simile, personification) will work with media advertisements and will be asked to point out the different examples of figurative language that such advertisements used. The group that understood the definitions of figurative lanaguage as well as the significance of figurative language in determining the larger meaning of the text/ad, will work with the same ads but will be asked to determine how such language adds to the greater meaning of the ad/how we as consumers perceive the ad based on the figurative language used. We would then get back together as a group to discuss all of these subjects as a whole, so that no students are left out of the greater understanding aspect of the lesson.

How Does Assessment Promote Student Learning?

The first reading from “Learning to Love Assessment” promoted a lot of great ideas about assessment, mostly because the author wrote in a very honest and authentic manner about the mistakes he made as a new teacher. The author suggests that students learn better when they know why they are being assessed, and this involves the teacher clearly laying out the learning objectives for that unit. It is also important that the teacher takes the time to assess what the students’ strengths and weaknesses are, which can be done through informal assessment. The teacher can them utilize this feedback and work it into the lesson plans to provide a better learning environment for the students. I really liked that the author of this article gave specific ways to do informal assessment, rather than vaguely saying it needs to happen and expecting teachers to know what to do. Ideas such as surveys, pre-assessments, and simply asking the students to write to him about which instructional approaches worked best for them were all great ideas.

The second reading from “Classroom Instruction that Works” focused a lot on assessment feedback. When giving feedback, it is extremely important to provide specific details about what that student needs to work on, and what they did well, so that they can build and improve upon these skills in the future. Not only does the teacher have to be the one providing feedback, but students can also provide it to one another. The chapter also emphasized the use of rubrics for assignments. This really struck a chord with me because I can remember my 9th grade Governor’s School teacher telling as at the beginning of the year to always ask for a rubric if a teacher does not provide one, because if they don’t, the grade they assign to your assignment has not been fairly explained. The article that I chose for today’s blog post focused specifically on the importance of rubrics: “They spell out scoring criteria so that multiple teachers, using the same rubric for a student’s essay, for example, would arrive at the same score or grade.” An interesting idea that the article noted is that rubrics aren’t only for the teacher’s grading benefit, but they allow students to self-assess as well. If a student and a teacher disagree on a grade they have been given, the two can schedule a meeting to go over the criteria and why exactly their opinions differ on the grade. This is a great way for the student to become involved in their own education process.

http://www.edutopia.org/assessment-guide-rubrics

Effective Methods for Assigning Homework

Chapter 7 of “Classroom Instruction that Works” was all about homework and practice. The three main recommendations for assigning homework that this chapter gave were: develop or communicate a district or school homework policy, design homework assignments that support academic learning, and provide feedback on assigned homework. Although all three recommendations are important, I’ve decided to focus mainly on the last two for the purpose of this blog post.

Just like all aspects of a teaching unit, homework has to have a clear purpose. Homework should also encourage rather than discourage learning, which can be assured only if teachers are assigning homework that the students are fully equipped to do; therefore, students must have an understanding of why they are doing the homework (the purpose), otherwise it will prove to be useless, as well as have the basic knowledge-base to work with and build upon skills that will be worked with in the homework activities. In regards to feedback on homework assignments, the chapter stresses the importance of it but in a different way than what I’m used to: provide written feedback rather than graded feedback. Written feedback will not only encourage students to build upon their previous work, but it will also help them to do so in ways that a grade cannot. Only when the students have been provided the necessary tools and knowledge should they be graded on the material through summative assessements.

In reference to whether or not homework works with A (Acquiring skills), M (meaning), or T (Transfer), I believe that all three are involved, but mainly acquiring skills. As the chapter stated, a lot of what homework involves is providing “students with opportunities to practice skills and processes in order to increase their speed, accuracy, fluency, and conceptual understanding” (106). Homework should be giving students a solid skill base through the use of flashcards, memorization, and other “know” processes. Then, in the classroom, students can utilize these skills to build upon them and implement them towards the bigger picture and to a more deeper understanding of the material. In other words, homework is the gateway for students to make meaning as well as connections (transfer).

Towards the end of the chapter, the use of technology as a beneficial tool for homework was brought up. The article that I chose for today’s blog focused on how students are balancing technology for school work and social purposes. Although we would expect individual use of technology for homework use to turn into somewhat of a distraction for students, specifically at the secondary level, this article addressed the notion that technology actually is a lot more beneficial for students than thought otherwise. For example, students expressed utilizing their computer for group discussions, homework postings, creating slideshows and study guides, and even using the internet to delve deeper into specific topics. If utilized to this extent, technology can be an effective tool for aiding students’ understanding of topics and going beyond the mere acquiring of skills that homework assignments encourage, and into making meaning of the material, which they can then take into the classroom more prepared than before.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/06/11/student-tech-use-at-home-is-tricky.html?qs=homework

What Do We Teach?

The readings for this week all focused on the concept of what we teach in the classroom. A running theme throughout both chapter readings, as well as the article I chose (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/using-fundamental-concepts-essential-questions-promote-critical-thinking/) which was all about the usefulness of essential questions, is that what we teach has to be meaningful. It has to spark interest in the students and engage them. Chapter 4 of Understanding By Design offered a useful acronym for instructional planning: WHERE. The first H stood out to me the most, standing for “Hook” and “Hold” the students’ attention. Such ways this can be done is through the use of challenging and thought provoking questions, ones that don’t necessarily have one correct answer. Students become more easily engaged when a question is seen as a mystery they need to uncover. Through this, they will not only be forced to think analytically and come up with their own possible explanations, but they will also be excited to receive the new information being presented. This also ties back to using essential questions; the correct EQ’s can also spark students’ attention and, if presented at the right time and in the right way, can resonate with the students and hold their attention not only at the very beginning of a lesson, but throughout the whole unit. As quoted from the article I chose, “If students memorize concepts but cannot think critically using those concepts, then the concepts are meaningless to the student and will soon be forgotten.” Thus, the crucial need for making learning meaningful rather than just using the common practices of coverage and lecture, as discussed in previous chapters, is evident.

Both readings also brought up the idea of using simulations in class to further engage students’ interests. I really love this idea mainly because I can recall times in my high school and middle school experiences when such a tactic was used–I can specifically recall doing a court simulation as well as countless debates in my 9th grade history class. As long as there is a clear goal in mind from the teacher, rather than just hoping for a good outcome, such simulations can be very rewarding. Furthermore, a lot of what the UBD chapter talked about reminded me a lot of the documentary we watched in class about the technical school. The students at this school were being directly immersed in the material they were working on, much like how a simulation or hands-on activity in the classroom works, and were constantly having their work critiqued and revised so that they could go back and make it even better. As this chapter mentioned, feedback is not meant to scare the student away or intimidate them; rather, it is for their own benefit so that they can simply continue to improve upon their work.

What We Learn Part 2

The readings for today focused again on what we learn and strategies that we can implement into curriculum that will allow students to learn effectively. The first chapter was about essential questions, which are open ended, thought provoking, encourage high order thinking, and so on. They differ greatly from lead questions, which are more so questions that require basic, factual knowledge of a concept. Instead, a question such as “How do the arts shape, as well as reflect, a culture?” represents a great essential question. This question encourages the student to go beyond a textbook answer and incorporate their own background and prior knowledge to answer a question that may or may not have one answer. An aspect of essential questions that I really liked from the reading is that they encourage transfer to other areas of learning. If a student is truly understanding the content he/she is presented with, and engaging with it in a thought-provoking, deep manner, he/she should be able to use this knowledge and apply it to another aspect of learning. This knowledge can be applied to the same subject matter, such as a math problem. With a math problem, the student can merely memorize the formula he/she needs to use for a specific problem, or they can understand why they are using that formula and be able to transfer those concepts to a different math problem. Transfer can also be applied to a broader scale & to different subject areas.

The second reading related back to the concept of essential questions as it focused on the difference between knowing and understanding. Understanding is what occurs when a child is meaningfully engaging with the information, and using an essential question is a great way to kick-start this. Knowing something is different in that although a child might know a specific piece of information, if he/she is not engaging with it and relating it to the big picture, he/she will easily forget this information. An example of knowing would be memorizing definitions for a test the night before. Relating this back to the first article, merely knowing a piece of information may not allow that student to transfer that knowledge to different areas of study and relate it to a bigger picture.

The article that I chose to read was about a new technique in reading aloud to elementary students that encourages deeper thought and understanding (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/13/new-read-aloud-strategies-transform-story-time.html?qs=understanding+content). While the teacher reads the book aloud, rather than stopping and asking the students questions about their personal feelings, such as asking, for example, “have you ever felt lonely before?” if the main character in the story is feeling lonely, the teacher instead asks specific questions about the text as a way to guarantee that the students are understanding what is going on in the story. She may ask, “Why did this happen?” or “What did this mean?”. In doing this, the  focus is on the content rather than the feelings. Students are also engaging directly in the text and getting meaning out of it then they might not have before. It also allows the students to ask the teacher questions on ideas they might be unfamiliar with or confused about. Although these specific students were only elementary students, it’s never too early to begin teaching kids to start using higher level thought processes.