Tag Archives: teaching

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.

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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.

Student Roles as Habitat Protectors

H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society. Students often wrongfully believe that their live does not interact with society as a whole. Though often fully often absorbed in their own lives, they don’t see how their life affects other people and the world around them. While some teachers try to emphasize to students that they are just one of many, an excellent teacher will help students investigate their role in greater society. Before I left my first internship site, the combined 4th grade classes took a field trip to Carkeek Park in order to see salmon at the end of their migration. The key question asked by our guide was “How do we play a part in salmon migration?” Though stumped at first, after a game and some observations (Image 1), they soon realized that they do play a role in the salmon life cycle.

Image 1

Image 1 – Students observing salmon in Carkeek Park streams.

In the game, students ran through an obstacle course pretending to be “salmon” evading the foes and woes of their life cycle. Young fries had to make it through powerful turbines, away from the fisherman’s hook, out of the mouths of orca whales, and safely back to their streams as spawning adults. Adding the “pollution” obstacle made the game even harder, and many “salmon” had difficulty making it through the man-made hydropower turbines. This activity made students more aware of the physical challenges that faced salmon before humans contributed to the mix, allowing them to become aware of the little things they do that affect salmon habitat.

Groups then switched and we went on a scavenger hunt by the stream (Image 2). We saw salmon at the end of their lives, struggling to make it to the spawning grounds, as well as those who had already spawned. Our guide also pointed out to us the drainage pipes that released water from our street drains (Image 3). Having one of those drains just outside the portable classroom, students instantly were able to recognize that what they put down that drain would go directly to an important piece of salmon habitat.

Image 2

Image 2 – A student looks for important pieces of salmon habitat in the scavenger hunt.

Image 3

Image 3 – Our guide showed students how important it was to know what we were putting into stormwater drains, as these drains lead directly to streams.

While students had often been told how important it was not to litter, they hadn’t often been told why. This field trip helped them realize their role in society – as a generation that recycles and uses chemicals sparingly knowing the hardships they can cause wildlife. Thanks to this half-day in the field, they now know one more way in which their choices can have an impact on society.

EDU 6132: Module 8 Reflection

As we attempt to honor our students’ access to course material (HOPE standard H2), we must keep in mind that our students’ efforts to pay attention can only go so far. There are two main points to consider when designing a classroom environment that engages students’ minds: their motivation and their attention.

Pressley and McCormick (2007) present many factors that can influence a student’s motivation to put forth effort in the classroom. The factor that concerned me most was that of self-efficacy. The authors define self-efficacy as “a learner’s perception of his or her capability of reaching a desired goal or a certain level of performance” (p. 292). When students have the belief that they are able to successfully accomplish a task, they are more motivated to attempt similar tasks in the future. When they are continually unable to accomplish tasks, they are discouraged from attempting such tasks in the future. A student’s belief in their own abilities can change the course of their lives, influencing the decisions they make and where they place their efforts. A way teachers can boost students’ self-confidence in a given subject is to take advantage of the review periods at the beginning of the year. While some might find it dull and repetitive for the students, those struggling with material can have a second chance to understand hard concepts and feel more confident in their ability to perform those tasks.

Medina (2008) designates an entire Brain Rule to attention. Contrary to popular belief, he notes that “attentional ability is not capable of multitasking” (p. 85).  While we may think that giving directions for a second activity while students are actively engaged in the first activity would benefit students and cut down on transition time, it actually requires them to shift their attention from their work, then back to their work once instruction is over. This results in a loss of concentration and possibly, as shown in studies, a loss of time and increase in errors. In order to ensure students are paying attention to only one stimulus at a time, teachers should honor the time students have to complete a task before frontloading the next.

References:

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY:

Guilford Press.

Reaching Parents using Technology

H4 – Honor family and community involvement in the learning process. Having parents involved in a student’s education can open opportunities for learning outside of the classroom and can be a critical component to a student’s success. The U.S. Department of Education says that “research overwhelmingly demonstrates the positive effect that parent involvement has on their children’s academic achievement” (2003). When families know what is going on at school, they can incorporate appropriate vocabulary and questions into everyday life; no longer creating a void between “school time” and “not school time.” In order to help close this gap, Mrs. L, my mentor teacher, has a class blog that students, parents, guardians, and other interested parties can access. An update to the conventional letters home, the blog can be updated frequently, can include pictures and documents, and is more likely to be seen since it can’t get lost in transport (as school letters so often do). Mrs. L’s blog keeps parents informed about what their student is learning as well as upcoming events that may concern the community such as a book fair or PTA event. Figure 1 is a screenshot from the class blog. It is expected that students remind their parents to check the blog during the first few weeks in order to build the habit of checking the blog daily and rewards are given to students who come to class with the secret codes posted on the page; the code in Figure 1, for example, is “because,” a word we are trying to encourage the students to use more.

ClassBlog

Figure 1: The class blog post from September 23, 2013.

I have always heard of the importance of school-parent relationships, but never knew my skill with social media could benefit my students’ learning via parental involvement. In a time when most parents of young students are more connected than ever, having an online source that keeps them connected to what their children do for eight hours per day is not only beneficial, but also convenient. As technology progresses, too, I hope to remain electronically literate in order to continue to be able to communicate with parents on a convenient and understandable level. The feedback from Mrs. L’s blog is very positive, one parent said via e-mail, “I love that you have a class blog.” Mrs. L also credits it for being able to get last-minute chaperones and volunteers, as well as donations of much-needed classroom items.

 

References

U.S. Department of Education. (2003). No child left behind: a parent’s guide. Retrieved September 23, 2013 from http://www.ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.pdf

Honoring Access to Content Material

H2 – Honor student access to content material. Most general-education classrooms are designed to cater to the majority of learners. These classrooms often need to make specific modifications in order for different types of learners to do their best. For example, in our classroom, we have an English language learner who is not receiving specialized English instruction. She is starting from nearly zero and, in order to make any progress whatsoever, she will need to earn the English language, building her vocabulary and learning how to read. In order for the student to have proper access to the class content, we have been taking her aside to build vocabulary.

h2

Figure 1 – Vocabulary sheets for our ELL student.

Figure 1 shows vocabulary sheets my mentor teacher developed using Richard Scary books from the library. After copying the pages, we whited out the labels. We then laminated these sheets so we can use dry-erase markers on them and reuse them. I realized that, even though we don’t have an ELL specialist in our school, we can still develop resources in order to help our students that need accommodations. It also showed me that, given the right resources, even the students who struggle most can make great strides. Using this method, our student can already identify many classroom items and actions. This allows her to better follow instruction during class and participate when she can. When this participation occurs, she is able to show how much she truly understands. This has been evident in math where, once she understood the numbers and what it meant to take out a pencil or add numbers, she was able to show us that she was up to standard on her math skills.

Responsibility to Report

E3: Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies. Teaching is a profession that includes many responsibilities, since we are often a major influence on the lives of many children. While some of these responsibilities are easy to handle, such as watching over the wellbeing of our students when they are in our classroom, there are other responsibilities that may be emotionally painful to fulfill. The one I think I might struggle with most is my role as a mandated reporter for suspicion of child abuse or neglect. For our Professional Issues course (EDU 6134), we read Washington State’s Guide for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Protecting the Abused & Neglected Child
Required Reading for EDU 6134

Even when simply reading the text, I was overcome with emotion and fear of having to report abuse in the students with whom I will build relationships. I never want to see abuse in my family, my circle of friends, or my classroom, but unfortunately it is something that could happen, and I have to be prepared for it. Not only will I report suspected abuse because it is the law, I will do it because I care about the people around me and don’t want to see them harmed. If any intervention from the state takes place in the household of one of my students, I will try to continue to maintain the classroom as a safe place to come and be a “normal” child, even while their life may shift around them. It is my hope that I will be surrounded by friends and family that will offer emotional support if I ever have to report suspected abuse. Being able to come home and behave as if nothing had happened is unlikely, but support might help me deal with the emotions that accompany evils such as realizing the presence abuse.

References:

Washington State Department of Social & Health Services: Children’s Administration. (2010). Protecting the abused & neglected child: a guide for recognizing & reporting child abuse & neglect. (DSHS 22-163).

Classroom Management and Special Needs

Prior to my Classroom Management course (EDU 6130), I had heard many things about students with special needs in the classroom. Given the lack of funding but wealth of legislation, the statistics say it is inevitable that I will soon have a student that requires something different from the rest of my students.    While only a fraction of teachers are trained to deal with the special needs of these exceptional children, every teacher can be called upon to do so.  I am glad to have read papers on the legislation and techniques relating to differences in learning. These papers, that I found so helpful, were from The Province British Columbia’s (2011) and Laprairie, Johnson, Rice, Adams, and Higgins (2010).  It made me much more confident in my ability to Honor Student Diversity and Development (HOPE Standard H1).  Before, I had thought that my whole classroom would have to be turned upside-down by the incorporation of a student with different needs.  Edith, a classmate, said in discussion that all students have different backgrounds and are unique, therefore they all have different needs from one another.  That gave me a whole new perspective on the situation.  While more time and effort will need to go into planning for their strengths, I should be planning for a variety of different learning styles and abilities already.  When we wrote a lesson plan in class, our group had already addressed so many types of learning, even before we had placed special emphasis on students with special needs.  Though it may be a challenge finding out what works, I believe a strong relationship with parents and other teachers the student might have had in the past can go a long way in developing a curriculum that will allow the student to flourish.

Knowing more about specific learning disabilities, as well as specific types of legislation, were also benefits of the readings this week.  The Province of British Columbia (BC) article was especially helpful in laying out the different ways a certain disability might present itself.  Even after dating someone with dyscalculia, what he called “number dyslexia,” for three years, I had no idea how it would present itself in the classroom – or even what it was technically called.  The BC article also laid out suggestions for adaptations that can be made – something I will be referring back to when I get my list of different abilities in my classroom.  The Laprairie, Johnson, Rice, Adams, and Higgins article was useful in defining and describing legislation that affects teaching students with different abilities.  There are so many acronyms and so much special jargon thrown around, especially in our classes that include the special education ARC students, and now I feel better prepared to understand most of what to which they are referring.  These two documents will be in my resource kit for years to come.

References:

Province of British Columbia. (2011). Supporting students with learning disabilities: A guide for teachers. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/docs/learning_disabilities_guide.pdf

Laprairie, K., Johnson, D. D., Rice, M., Adams, P., & Higgins, B. (2010). The top ten things new high school teacher needs to know about servicing students with special needs. American secondary education, 38(2), 23-31.

Me as a Teacher

In the beginning, I envision learning a great deal of information in a short amount of time. Coming from a background unlike many others in my cohort, I feel slightly behind. Many of my classmates have spent time in a classroom recently, whether tutoring or assistant teaching. The last time I was in an elementary school classroom, I was attending the elementary school. The learning curve will be steep, but I am excited to progress my skills and learn something new. I will spend five weeks learning the basics, then spend a whole school year in a classroom with an experienced teacher while continuing courses. I learn best by observing others, so this will likely be the time of the most professional growth for me. Even after the program, my passion for learning new things – something my dad instilled in me – will keep me moving forward and trying to better myself in an ever-evolving field.

Although I do have this slight handicap of not working in schools, I have taught in a way some teachers find difficult. I have spent the last five years working in informal science education, so I know a lot about presenting difficult concepts to children with varying understanding of the idea. I also have a background in science, which is not all too common in elementary school teachers. Even though I am passionate about a wide range of topics, science became a highlight for me in high school. I hope having a scientist as a teacher for at least one year of elementary school will give the kids I teach a better respect for and understanding of the importance of math and science.