Monthly Archives: April, 2014

Responsibility of a Safe Environment

It is understood that teachers are responsible for the education of the students in their care. Many are unaware that our responsibility to our students goes beyond academics. We are also caretakers, responsible for the wellbeing of the child within our classroom as well as becoming aware of their wellbeing outside of the classroom. In order to exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies (HOPE standard E3), we must be aware of our role as providers of a safe environment. The Archdiocese of Seattle requires all people who come into contact with youth and vulnerable adults through church-sanctioned volunteer or paid work to complete a Safe Environment training. While the circumstances that led to these trainings is unfortunate, it is beneficial that the Church make its members aware of the signs of abuse and how to respond to suspected abuse. I believe this program prepared me for being more alert to signs of abuse that a student might show as well as behaviors of adults that may be red flags.

Image 1 - The Safe Environment Program website: http://www.seattlearchsep.org/resources.html

Image 1 – The Safe Environment Program website: http://www.seattlearchsep.org/

Image 2 - A description of the class required for all volunteers who may be in a supervisory role with children.

Image 2 – A description of the class required for all volunteers who may be in a supervisory role with children.

Recognizing abuse is a situation we hope we will never have to face, but it is one of the sad realities of being a teacher. It is also an opportunity to step in at a time when a child needs you most. Teachers have a unique role in that they see students almost as much as parents do, but also see a different side of them, perhaps one they would not show their parents or family. In order to work in a public school, I was asked to complete a background check and became familiar with abuse reporting policies for teachers. The Catholic school took it one step further in helping us better understand warning behaviors from both children and the adults who may take advantage of them; they also require annual refresher trainings in order to continue working around children. Even if I do not end up in a Catholic school in my employment, I intend to continue with these trainings, as they have helped me understand my responsibility to my students and have better prepared me for that responsibility.

Standards-Based Assessment

Most students’ mastery of standards is measured during state testing periods, but as teachers we need to be aware of students’ progress toward standards long before that time. In my case, my students will not be taking a standardized test to measure their mastery of the standards, so practicing standards-based assessment (HOPE principle P3) is even more critical. In order to ensure our students are meeting the goals that have been set for their grade level, we must both align our teaching to those standards and adequately measure students’ developing mastery of that skill or ability. Finding appropriate ways to measure their progress is critical. Thankfully, the widespread adoption of Common Core State Standards allow teachers from across many states to share evaluative resources. A quick Google search of the standard to be assessed can bring multiple pages of options for ways to assess students’ progress.

Image 1 - Our math text, My Math, identifies each standard that is addressed in each lesson, allowing the teacher to use formative assessments to measure progress toward those standards.

Image 1 – Our math text, My Math, identifies each standard that is addressed in each lesson, allowing the teacher to use formative assessments to measure progress toward those standards.

Image 2 - In addition to lesson alignment, each formative "quick check" assessment aligns to a standard, giving concrete data on each student's progress.

Image 2 – In addition to lesson alignment, each formative “quick check” assessment aligns to a standard, giving concrete data on each student’s progress.

Our math curriculum, My Math, is useful in that it links every lesson (Image 1) and quick check (exit ticket) (Image 2) to a standard, then breaks down the post-assessment by which problems assess which standard. In literacy, assessments are broken down into each component that addresses a standard. For example, a research paragraph can measure multiple writing standards as well as some language standards, so each applicable component will be given a score measuring progress toward mastery. This allows us to key in on each standard that is being measured and appropriately track students’ understanding in each area. This also allows us to see which areas still require more data in order to better represent the students’ knowledge. Going back and revisiting standards introduced previously allows us the ability to measure student retention of concepts, as well. Students benefit from this data collection in that we have sufficient information on which standards most students have mastered and which ones should be revisited or retaught in order to improve student understanding.

Aligning Lessons to Goals

In lesson planning, I have become accustomed to essentially planning backwards – starting with the goals and choosing lessons that will align to those goals, which helps me to offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes (HOPE principle O1). My internship has emphasized the importance of learning targets and goals. According to Marzano, a learning goal is “a statement of what students will know or be able to do” (2007, Location 205). We sometimes refer to these as learning targets, which is more specific to an individual lesson. Each learning target is a critical piece of building towards the central focus, or goal for the series of lessons or entre unit.

When designing lesson plans in this way, starting with our central focus and learning targets, we ensure that every lesson has a purpose. By starting with what students are to learn before focusing on how they will learn it, each lesson, each question, and each activity will be focused on and aligned with a specific outcome.

 

Image 1 - A part of two consecutive lesson plans, each sharing the same central focus and standard, but whose targets build on each other.

Image 1 – A part of two consecutive lesson plans, each sharing the same central focus and standard, but whose targets build on each other.

Another benefit of this style of lesson planning is that students understand what they are supposed to be learning. As Jim Knight said, “When students understand what they are supposed to learn, the chances are much higher that they will actually learn it” (2012, Location 914). One of the areas on which I am still working is to ensure students have time to reflect on their progress toward the learning target at the end of the lesson. I believe this is critical because students should have a better idea of how confident they are in their abilities and where they may need to work harder.

References

Knight, J. (2012). High impact instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Technology in the Classroom

In an elementary classroom, it is difficult to begin integration of technology. Developing the trust required to put a hundred-dollar piece of electronic equipment in students’ hands takes time. Using HOPE principal P4, practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction, requires a leap of faith with your students, but allows that leap to be appropriate for their ability and responsibility levels. We have begun using iPad games as review before math tests. After students have learned the material, they get a day to play on the iPads – using a game that will help them better understand the concept or deepen their learning. Last week, we used iPads to work with money.

Image 1 – Students playing Counting Money, a free game on the iPad

Image 1 – Students playing Counting Money, a free game on the iPad

Technology allows students to get excited about material. My students’ eyes light up when they see the stack of iPads on the windowsill. The room develops a dead silence as students become captivated by the screen. The Counting Money App forced students to think about money in a way that was different than what was in their book. What they had been working with so far was being given a set of coins, then having to find the value of those coins. The app gave students a money amount and challenged them to find which coins would make that number. Further challenging students to use the fewest coins possible, they had to think critically about what they had already learned. The app was also useful in that it fully engaged students, allowing me time to work with specific students who had been struggling with the concept. The results are encouraging. Scores on student post-assessments were 3s across the board, save two students. I cannot fully attribute their success on the app, but it did provide a fun review that gave them more practice with coins and their value. Moving forward, I can see myself using similar technologies in my first year of teaching. Students see them as a reward for hard work during a unit, while I am secretly sneaking in more practice before their assessment.

Image 2 - A student finding $0.73 using the Counting Money App.

Image 2 – A student finding $0.73 using the Counting Money App.