Monday, March 2, 2015

Jess' Top 10 - ICE Conference 2015

This has been my third year attending the ICE conference, and I can easily say this year has been my favorite (minus the snowy drive one of the mornings!)  I was part of a couple half-day workshops and some mini-sessions.  I participated in and listened to some discussions about a wide-range of topics such as: best practices with technology integration, global collaboration, digital writers, 1:1 devices, and technology that supports student engagement.

Below are my TOP 10 favorite ideas, quotes, images, or tools that made an impression on me, and that I hope will leave an impression on you as well!  These are in no particular order, however, I did put my FAVORITE item next to number one, so be sure to read all the way through.  All I have to say about the #1 item on my list is that it could be a game-changer!  

Now that I have your attention...let's begin with #10...

10. Ramsey Musallam is a high school chemistry teacher in San Francisco.  He's all about student learning, he's a "connected" teacher (uses social media), and he loves to get qualitative data from his students after each semester, plus he's a great speaker making it easy to listen to him at 3:00 PM after a long morning!  

He talked about the difference between being an Educator vs. Entertainer.  With the technology we have available it's easy to become an entertainer where we spend our day at the front of the room and impress our students with all of the exciting gadgets, tools, and videos.  However, the most effective approach to student learning is to let the students construct meaning for themselves through explorations and applications and then provide students with the information.  It's also important to build students' curiosity.  Ramsey mentioned asking students a question, but not giving them the answer...

Finally, he mentioned the importance of letting students struggle!  I'm going to leave you with a quote to think about...

"Difficulty builds mental muscle while ease builds only confidence" - Nate Kornell 

9.  We have been working through a lot of change lately (Thinking Maps, Kagan, Technology Integration, Words Their Way, etc.).  Here's a great graphic that outlines what we need (a Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and an Action Plan) in order to avoid the purple column!

8. Throughout the year, send your students a Google Form for them to fill out anonymously that asks them questions about their perspectives of you as a teacher.  This a great way for you to collect some qualitative data about you as an educator!

7.  "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." This quote was shown in context with a slide about global collaboration. We don't often have the resources or knowledge of how to introduce and connect our students with others in the community, however, we have the ability to create that door ourselves! In fact, Google search "Digital Human Library" and you will find a collection of organizations and professionals ready to video conference with your students - FOR FREE!

6.  Want to connect your class with other classrooms around the world?  Check out Mystery Skype!

5.  Projects by Jen - this site is AMAZING! Visit this page to learn about World-Wide projects that your class can be a part of! There are projects happening at all times of the school year, so it's simple - see what project is coming up and decide if you want your class to join!

4.  Free writing can be as simple as allowing your students to "Tweet."  Maybe not using Twitter, but on a blog, or even on a post-it note, share a "hashtag" with your students and have them "Tweet" based on that hashtag!  Here are some hashtag examples...

#ihadthebestday (let students write about their best day ever!)
#allabouttheplanets (students can choose some planets to research and write about)
#uhoh (this can go in so many different directions...)
#canihaveyourautograph (write about someone you would like to meet)
#monkeysaliensandmonstersohmy (let them write creatively!)

3.  Every October our students have the chance to be a part of a Global Read Aloud.  Check out how we can connect with other classrooms around the world!

2. Support communication, collaboration, and students’ confidence as writers by showing them they have a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Use a Circle Map to help students create their PLN. In the center of the circle students will write Personal Learning Network, and around the circle students will list everyone that they can seek out for guidance in writing. Students can continue to add to their PLNs throughout the year This is a great way to let students know that their PLNs are always growing and more importantly that their parents, teachers, and friends/family are all part of their PLN!

1. You finally made it!  Click on this link and make sure to click on "watch this video"...prepare to be AMAZED!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shhh!!! What is your Quiet Signal??

I am so excited to see how Kagan Fever has overtaken our school.  There are so many success stories that people have shared with me.  One of my favorite realizations that I've heard is how successful the quiet signal is!  Which, in my opinion, is one of the keys to starting Kagan successfully.

"I didn't think that it would work with my kids and they have totally caught on to it.  They enjoy "showing" the other students what the teacher is expecting!"

I am so glad to hear that there is success with such a simple technique.  Also, remember that it does not need to be the same signal that Jen, the trainer, showed us.  You can use your own.  Some of the benefits that come from using the hand signal is that you do not have to talk over the students to get their attention.  You don't need to walk over to the light switch to turn it off.  Another benefit is the ripple effect!  Some students see you raise your hand or hear your statement and then they help the rest of the class gain quiet attention.  How nice not to have to continue shushing the students or remind them that you are waiting for them.

Now here are some things that you should remember:

1.  Explanation to the students about the quiet signal is helpful!  Let them know that by placing them in groups, you are aware of the temptation to speak to others and of course with Kagan there are always opportunities for your voice to be heard!  Also, remind them that when working in groups, the volume throughout the room needs to be low enough that all the members in your team will be able to hear your voice.

2.  5 Seconds is Key!!  If students are taking longer that 5 seconds to give you their attention, then you should take time to practice the quiet signal with the class.

3.  Put your hand down before you speak! This is the one that I am always guilty of!!  I put my hand up, call for attention, and wait.  All good, right!  Then I keep my hand in the air and begin talking, WRONG!  I should model for them how I want them to give attention.  I do not want to confuse them.  We don't want them thinking that when my hand is in the air that I talk.  I know this is hard and as I said I always need to be aware of it too.

4.  Wait for the last hand!  If you get full attention from all but two or three students, do NOT continue.  Wait for the last hand!  If you continue, you are sending the message to the rest of the class that they really don't have to raise their hands.

5.  Awkward pause!  Remember that it is okay to let them squirm a little with anticipation with what is coming up next.  By allowing for an additional pause after the signal, you are sending a clear message that you will wait for silence before continuing to speak.

Watch for more Kagan tips in upcoming blogs!!  If you have a Kagan success story and would like to share it, please email me and I would love to add it to the blogs!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kagan from a Tech Perspective

As a Technology Coach, do I get excited about Kagan Strategies?  YES!

I think back to all of the times that, as a third-grade teacher, I "incorporated technology" into the classroom.  As I think back, most of my technology integration consisted of either a group of students working in front of one computer or a group of six students each on their own device playing a math game.  If you had walked into my classroom while groups of students sat in front of a computer researching about a prairie animal you may have thought These kids are really busy learning.  Or, you may have walked into my room while students were playing math games and thought Wow, these students are SO quiet!

Let's think of my first example of "technology integration" in which I had groups of students all working on a classroom computer to research.  I now realize this was not the perfect scenario.  Granted this was 3-5 years ago and technology has dramatically changed.  I now see that having groups of students in front of computers inhibits many students from participating.  In fact, I can remember a few kids, one or two from each group, taking over the computer and the majority of the kids from each group sitting back for the ride!  This goes against all of Kagan's Basic Principles of Cooperative Learning - Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Equal Participation and Simultaneous Interaction (PIES).  Most of the students were dependent on only one or two people in their group which meant about 25% of each group was participating and actively learning!

When thinking about my second example of "technology integration", in which students sat quietly with an iPad and played a game, I wonder now if many students enjoy this type of activity because they do not feel the pressure of accountability.  Honestly, how often did I check student progress on those drill apps?  Never...  Also, I question how this structure ever helped any of my students develop socially and emotionally!

Some people may think that it's difficult to integrate technology seamlessly when we only have about 10 devices per classroom.  However, in my opinion, this 2:1 model is almost better!  We are then made to group kids together in partnerships to work on meeting targets while using technology and we are pushed to use collaborative and critical thinking tools and apps such as Google Drive, KidBlog, and Explain Everything!  These tools not only support an active learning environment, but also a 21st Century Classroom!

Now let's get to the good stuff...a tangible example that connects Kagan and technology:

Target: Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) AND explain how a character's actions contribute to the sequence of events. (3rd Literacy Grade Target)
Kagan Strategy: All Write Round Robin 
App/Tool: Popplet (an app for mind-mapping)
The Lesson: The teacher poses a question to groups of students - How many character traits can you think of.  Give the students some think time.  Each group has one iPad opened to the Popplet app.  The first person in the group starts a new Popplet and writes the word "traits" in the middle.  From there, each person says a trait aloud while also writing it in a Popplet off of the Popplet labeled "traits."  At the same time, everyone in the group is recording the trait on a sheet of paper as well.  In the end, each group should have about 8-12 traits listed.  Look at the image below to see an example:

This is just the start of a lesson about character traits...can anyone think of how to continue this lesson with the use of technology and Kagan strategies?  Or, does anyone have another idea for a different target?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Assessing Language Targets with Technology by Jess and Lisa

Not sure how to report out on a language target?  We have an idea for you!  Each grade level is responsible for the following cycle 4 target related to sentence structure:

First Grade Language Target:
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar usage when writing or speaking by producing complete simple AND compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences when speaking AND writing in response to prompts

Second Grade:
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking by producing, expanding, and rearranging complete simple AND compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences when speaking and writing.

Third Grade:
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar usage when writing or speaking by producing simple, compound, and complex sentences- ensuring subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement.

Fourth Grade:
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar usage when writing or speaking by producing complete compound and complex sentences focusing on ordering adjectives within sentences according to conventional patterns (e.g., small red bag rather than a red small bag) and form and use prepositional phrases.

Fifth Grade:
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar usage when writing or speaking focusing on verbs and conjunctions by using correlative conjunctions (e.g., either/or, neither/nor).

While we realize these structures may not always be found naturally in your students writing, there are other ways to determine if students understand these targets.

First, consider using a TECR Google Form as a way to pre-assess student understanding.  Then, from there, consider the many great tools that are available to help students practice these targets.  One such tool to use is Wixie.  With Wixie, you have the choice of assigning students a pre-made activity/template to complete OR give students the freedom to create their own Wixie to prove they understand this sentence structure target.   Please see the examples below:

Example 1: A pre-made activity/template to prove their understanding of sentence structure for first graders.

Example 2: A fifth grade student’s Wixie assignment to prove their understanding of sentence structure.

As always if you need support in understanding this target and/or learning how to use Wixie, please let Lisa or Jess know!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Make Sense of Problems and Persevere In Solving Them

"Successful problem solving does not mean that students will always conclude with the correct response to a problem, but rather that students will undertake a genuine effort to engage in the problem-solving process, drawing on learning resources described in the other practices such as appropriate tools, using their prior knowledge, engaging in math­ematical discourse with other students, and asking questions to make progress in the problem solving process. Successful problem solvers also recognize that powerful learning can be experienced even when an appropriate answer to a problem ultimately evades the student."
- Tim Kanold - Turning Vision into Action Blog

What do you do when you are presented with a difficult math problem? Try the problem below! Take note ,not so much to your solution strategy, but what you noticed about your perseverance. When was your perseverance tested? What did you do to overcome that? 

Jonathan is two years younger than his wife Hazel. Their current ages are both prime numbers. Next year Hazel's age will be a multiple of 11. Jonathan's age will be the product of two consecutive numbers. 

How old are Jonathan and Hazel?
(MATH FORUM Problem of the Week #3559)

*Want to know if you're correct? Email Sam your response and you may find a small gift in your mailbox! Correct or not, I applaud your problem solving and perseverance! 

What did you notice? Were you able to engage in the problem solving process as Tim Kanold described? 

Standard of Mathematical Practice Standard #1 states that students should be able to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. How do we teach students to persevere and embed meaningful practice into our instruction?

When a student is presented with a challenging task, some students need help figuring out how to tackle that tough situation and need a lot of practice overcoming challenges.  Students need time experiencing productive struggle in order to build that ability to persevere. Productive struggle is when students explore tasks or problems with an appropriate level of support. Support, in this case, is asking the right questions or providing appropriate prompts to move the student forward without directly teaching them what to do.  This struggle is a balance between success and challenge that leads to increased motivation and confidence in a student's ability to be a problem solver. (See our previous blog post on Differentiation by Questioning for more information on what those prompts might look like!) 

As teachers, when our students struggle, we want to jump in and help, it's in our nature!  But, sometimes we need to avoid that temptation and provide our students with a different kind of support that builds their problem solving skills and, eventually, their confidence in math. 

Now, how do we allow for productive struggle without frustrating our students? Here are some tips for preparation and implementation:

Preparing to Implement Productive Struggle

  • Prepare students for struggle
    • Set classroom norms
    • Share why struggle is important
    • Create a safe environment for risk-taking
    • Model productive struggle and thinking strategies
  • Anticipate student difficulties
    • Instead of preventing difficulties, provide tools to help students work through difficulties
  • Differentiation
    • What provides productive struggle for one student may not for another
    • Ignoring this can lead to frustration for students
  • Response to feedback
    • Feedback on assessments and in-class work should require action from the student
Productive Struggle in Action
  • Focus on the process
    • Correct answers are not valid without explanation
    • Incorrect answers are a pathway to learning, not an impasse
    • Highlight multiple ways to reach the same conclusion
  • Allow access to tools
    • Do not limit the tools available for students
    • Let students decide instead of directing them how and what to use
  • Avoid over-helping or helping too early
    • Wait to intervene; look for non-productivity
    • Ensure students are doing the thinking
    • Use questions to guide instead of statements to direct
  • Learning when to help, when to question, when to wait
    • Reflect on the activity post-implementation
    • Promote student reflection and use reflection as feedback
(Closing the Achievement Gap Webinar -

    Questions that Support Productive Struggle

    • How would you describe the problem in your own words?
    • How would you describe what you are trying to find?
    • What information is given in the problem?
    • Describe what you have already tried. What might you change?
    • Talk me through the steps you've used to this point.
    • What steps in the process are you most confident about?
    • What would happen if...?
    • Is it possible to...?
    • Is this always true...?
    • Why does this work?
    • What could you do next?
    • Is there more than one way to think about this?
    • What are some other strategies you might try?
    • What did you notice?
    • Could you explain what you mean by...?
    • What do we need to do to clear up our confusion?
    • Does your solution/conclusion make sense?

    This brings us back to Standard of Mathematical Practice #1 - Make sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them. By allowing opportunities for our students to engage in productive struggle, we can clearly see that most, if not all, of the key behaviors of this standard are embedded into our instruction. 

    Summary of Standard:

    • Interpret and make meaning of the problem to find a starting point. 
    • Plan a solution pathway instead of jumping to the solution. 
    • Monitor their progress and change the approach if necessary. 
    • See relationships between various representations. 
    • Relate current situations to concepts or skills previously learned and connect mathematical ideas to one another. 
    • Continually ask themselves, "does this make sense?" Can understand various approaches to solutions. 

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Thinking Maps to Build Background...

    This is a great example of how students with limited English proficiency can fill out a Thinking Map.

    Building background for ELL students is an important step for their success in an up coming lesson. By allowing the students a chance to tap into the information and vocabulary that they already know about a topic you can help them to feel more confident as they approach the tasks associated with that topic. There are many ways to help students access what they already know about a topic and Thinking Maps are a great way to do this.

    Students can organize and fill in thinking maps no matter what their english proficiency level, it's just a matter of providing them with the right support. Above is an example of how a student with limited English can complete a circle map about living things. Although this students may not have the full grasp of the required vocabulary (in English) they can stay with what the class is doing and feel successful by using pictures instead. In this case the student is able to sort through what they already know about aquatic animals which will prepare them for upcoming lessons.

    Here are a few examples for the continuation to the circle map above.

    Thinking Maps are very basic in their structure but provide a wide range of opportunities to support students at various academic levels while having the  entire class all completing the same process for organizing their information. The ways that these can be utilized in the classroom is unlimited.