Please feel free to share your video discoveries in the comments section. Thanks to Marc for the great World History list and for the inspiration for this post.
In my first quarter back in the classroom after two years in another job and after just having my daughter, I felt like this kid kept smacking puck away from the net. (Or may the dearth of hockey in Wyoming is really getting to this Midwestern girl. Ha!)
But I did make some progress on the goals I set. I have decided to keep the same four goals for the rest of the year, but I have tweaked them a little. Here is the lowdown:
Assessment – I will be work to develop more effective assessments.
Progress: I did not make as much headway here as I had hoped. I ended up revamping some of my old tests in the interest of saving time and my sanity after many sleep deprived nights. In order to improve, I made a plan and began working with one of our Instructional Facilitators to do some backwards design and dig into creating a more effective assessment for my Medieval Era unit. Then we created PLC teams a little over a week ago, and some common assessments were written by the teams for both my U.S. and World classes. I was on the U.S. PLC and not really involved in the Medival Era test created for World History. While the World PLC wrote a good test, I was a little bummed I didn’t go through the whole process myself. However, I don’t feel that my previous work on that unit was for nothing. I was more interested in the process of writing the test and thinking more about #sbar than the test itself. And I feel that I was able to do that at least a little. This last quarter I was able to better define for myself exactly what I want my students to get out of that unit and my Cold War unit in U.S. History. In both classes I feel that I did well on purpose of this goal, which was to work towards better defining for students what I want them to learn.
Revamp: I will work to deliberately define for students what they are expected to learn. Since my department is stepping up the PLC work and tackling common unit assessments, I am tweaking this goal to focus on one of the reasons why I created my original assessment goal. This will also allow me to continue to work towards Standards Based Grading as I continue to define for my students exactly what I want them to be learning. I will work on providing students study guides outlining the learning expectations at the beginning of each unit (in the past, I’ve provided these guides shortly before the test). I will then refer to them throughout the unit in an attempt to make more solid connections for students. I will also explore other ways to clearly define learning outcomes for students. Any suggestions or information on how you approach this would be appreciated.
Feedback – I will provide students with more informative, specific and timely feedback.
Progress: I feel that when I gave feedback, I was more informative and specific. However, I do not feel that I was very timely. My largest obstacles to overcome in order to meet this goal are efficiency and time. One type of feedback that I felt was helpful this past quarter was the use of individual grade conferences with my World History students. I had some good conversations and learned some helpful things from my students. I would like to continue to experiment with this idea.
Revamp: I will provide students with more informative, specific and timely feedback. I have decided to keep this goal pretty much in tact, but I will focus more on the timely aspect of things. I am setting up regular times in my schedule to give feedback and I plan to do so more often. I have found that if I specifically schedule this, it’s more likely to get done. I have also decided to try to shift my mindset from that of “grading” to that of “feedback.” When I think of “grading” I think of a task to be done, like filling out needed paperwork for the office. When I think of “feedback” I actually think of teaching and learning. I also have a more positive attitude and willingness (even excitement) to get things done. I will also be trying to give better feedback through our online grading system, Infinite Campus. With no training on the gradebook portion of the program and no manual (I’ve asked), it’s been a bit challenging for me to use the system. However, many students, parents, administrators and tutors depend on this form of feedback, so I need to better utilize this tool.
Parental Communication – I will communicate more regularly with parents.
Progress: While I had some good conversations, parent communication pretty much only happened when it needed to.
Revamp: I will communicate more regularly with parents by calling all of my World History parents at least once this quarter. I realized that I need to be more specific with this goal. There are so many things I want to improve, but I know I need to break it up into specific parts in order to be more successful.
Efficiency - I will become more efficient with my planning time, grading, and various other responsibilities while maintaining quality standards.
Progress: I made a lot of headway with this goal. I have been using every second of my available planning time and lunch. My after school time could be more efficient, but I’m finding that my energy is so spent by that point that I’m not as efficient with my time.
Revamp: I will become more efficient with my planning time, feedback, and other responsibilities while maintaining quality standards. Mostly, I need to find a rhythm with how I use the time that I have. One of the areas I will be focusing on is make-up work. I have a new system I plan on implementing this semester in which students use their FirstClass accounts to access make-up work on their own. I am hoping 10 minutes a day updating this will save much more time in the long run. As mentioned earlier, I am building regular times into my schedule to provide students with feedback. I am also scheduling regular times with our Instructional Facilitators to work on unit planning. I am hoping that this will help me to stay on track and ahead of the game, as well as produce better quality lessons.
Do you have any feedback or advice on these goals? What are your goals for the semester?
Not long ago, I watched this TED Talk by Conrad Wolfram, creator of WolframAlpha, on the teaching of mathematics. In this video, Conrad discusses the use of computers in teaching math and how they can be utilized to shift the emphasis from computation to problem solving in the real world.
Shortly after that, I came across Mike Gwaltney’s blog post on Democratizing Knowledge titled “Math is Dead. Long Live Mathematics!” Don’t be shy, you should go there and read it. But first, think about this…
Math History is Dead. Love Live Mathematics History!
Whenever you hear or see the word “computation” in the TED Talk or in Mike’s post, replace it in your mind with “fact memorization.” Whenever you see or hear “math” or “mathematics,” replace it with “history.” While every substitute doesn’t work perfectly, I think it is worth discussing the parallels. In history, computers would not be used for computation, but rather to look up historical facts.
Please note that I’m not saying we should throw the memorization of historical facts completely out the window. I believe there should be a balance between knowing certain facts and being able to do analysis. After all, things like the Gettysburg Address and the Diary of Anne Frank (or The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) make less sense if you don’t understand the facts and the context surrounding them. Rather, I would like to have a conversation on the idea of how much we should shift the approach to teaching history if, through technology, students have much easier access to the facts than in the past.
So what do you think? Do you feel it is fair to substitute fact memorization for computation? Do you feel there is a better substitute in the field of history? Perhaps this idea parallels another substitution in a different discipline. What are your thoughts?
I’ve just completed my 8th week of teaching after returning from maternity leave. It’s has been a very interesting experience, made more interesting by my return to the classroom from two years as an Instructional Facilitator. I’ve been retooling my lesson plans, setting up my classroom, working to build community with my students, and trying to keep up with grading. I’ve also been trying to balance work and family more effectively. As many of your know, this can be a challenge.
I have been trying to come up with strategies that will allow me to be a good teacher without sacrificing my ability to be a good parent. It is important to spend time with my daughter, and I realize that in the past my teaching style has required a lot of time spent planning outside of the school day. There is also that seemingly endless stack of paperwork and administrative tasks that can eat up a lot of time. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to use my planning block more efficiently while I am at school, but it hasn’t been enough. This is where you come in.
I’m looking for ideas. I’ve asked a few colleagues about how they balance work and family, and the response I’ve gotten from all of them is that they are also struggling and don’t have it figured out. I’m not searching for answers that unlock the secrets of the universe (though I’d take those too!), but rather strategies and advice for things that help you be more efficient with work and allow you to spend quality time with family. I would love to hear from you about small or complex strategies you have used to adapt to the role of a teaching parent. I am also interested in time saving strategies in general, so please don’t feel like you have to be a parent to offer advice.
I love my job. I love being a teacher and lesson planning is something I really enjoy. It goes without saying that I love my daughter. She deserves as much of my time as I can give her (and my wonderful husband!). Please feel free to comment with ideas or even questions you have as a teaching parent or as a teacher trying to use your time more efficiently and effectively. I would love to hear from all of you.
Today I had the opportunity to attend NBC’s Education Nation Teacher Town Hall online. While I have my concerns about bias, I am glad there is a lot of attention being paid to education right now. But rather than rehash my experience and opinion of the Town Hall, I have chosen to be inspired by Paula White, L. Lee and other colleagues on Twitter. I am choosing to write about possible solutions and what I see working in education with the hope that these ideas will help others to find their own solutions.
An alternative to traditional professional development, coaches are typically veteran or master teachers who collaborate with other teachers in small groups or individually to improve instruction and to raise student achievement. What better way to improve teacher practice than to individualize and differentiate for our teachers, just as we like to do for our students? Please keep in mind that coaches are not intended to be “teacher fixers” or traditional evaluators, but rather work with any teacher who choses continual improvement. After all, we can all strive to be a better educator. (Full Bias Disclosure: I worked as an Instructional Facilitator for 2 years.) You can read more about Instructional Coaches/Facilitators at the following links:
- The Kansas Coaching Project
- The Big Four Ning
- The Instructional Coaching Virtual Conference
- Blogs by Jim Knight: Notes on Instructional Coaching and Radical Learners
- Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud
- Differentiated Coaching for Educators from Jane Kise
- 21st Century Coaching
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers
During the 2009-2010 school year, I had the opportunity to study Professional Learning Communities (or PLCs) for possible implementation in our school. During that time I talked with people doing PLCs and visited schools currently using the PLC model. While the PLC model is generally positive (there are negative aspects as well), what I took away was the value of built-in collaboration time for teachers. The schools where this really seems to work have created time for teachers to collaborate within the school schedule and outside of regular planning time (because teachers have enough to do already, right?). And by outside, I don’t mean before or after school. It is built into the school day either on a frequent basis (an extra planning type period every other day) or less frequent on a monthly type basis. I’ve also seen principals willing to provide subs for teachers who want to occasionally work together in this way. Teachers seem very positive about this time to work with their colleagues and even “non-believers” have come to value this time once they have experienced it. I often hear people say that teaching is an isolated profession. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can find ways to value and protect collaborative time with our colleagues.
A best practice I have seen many teachers employ is that of student choice. When it comes to professional development, teachers also deserve that choice. Whether it is choosing which PD session is most relevant to them, whether or not to work with an Instructional Coach and more, choice will yield better results in teacher improvement.
What have you seen work to help improve teaching and learning in our schools? Please feel free to comment here or write your own blog post with the tag #educationnation. Also, feel free to comment on or ask questions about the three options I’ve written about here. Let’s focus on solutions and move forward!
Today I had the chance to read Jamie’s goals for the year over at Dontworryteach. This was a good reminder for me, as I feel it is important to state your goals. This will be an interesting year for me with a lot of change and adjustment. Not only will I be going back to the classroom after two years as an instructional facilitator, I will have a new daughter (any day now!). Stating my goals now before the chaos hits will hopefully help me to stay focused and roll with the punches a bit better. Feel free to check up on me and ask me about my progress.
I tend to develop my goals on a quarter by quarter basis. Since I will not be in my classroom the first quarter of this year, here are my goals for the first semester.
- Assessment – I will be work to develop more effective assessments. This involves not only the method of assessment, but what I am assessing. This is part of my quest to move in the direction of Standards Based Grading. By focusing on improving assessments, I will also be working on better defining for my students exactly what it is I want them to be learning.
- Feedback – I will provide students with more informative, specific and timely feedback. This can involve spoken or written comments and discussion. I will go beyond “Good job!” and other vagaries to tell students exactly what is or is not working well. This also ties in with Standards Based Grading as well as with my goal on improving assessments. After all, what’s the point of a good assessment if the student doesn’t understand the results?
- Parental Communication – I will communicate more regularly with parents. My plan at the moment involves more frequent phone calls and email contacts for a variety of purposes and a blog site (which I realize parents may or may not utilize). I want to be sure parents feel welcome in my classroom and comfortable communicating with me. They are the experts on their children and an excellent resource.
- Efficiency - I will become more efficient with my planning time, grading, and various other responsibilities while maintaining quality standards. With so much changing in my life right now, I want to make sure I am doing a good job of balancing school and home life. This will possibly be my most difficult challenge.
Have you tackled any of these things before? What was your experience like? I would appreciate any advice, resources or insights. What are your goals? I encourage you to post them here or elsewhere.
“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving…”
I’d like to present my next step in the Standards Based Grading journey. I find myself asking other people about the process they used to develop their standards for their classes, so here is my own process thus far.
In order to create standards for the reading component of my 10th Grade U.S. History course, I have looked over several sets of standards, pulled out the elements related to reading, looked for commonalities, considered my own professional knowledge of the subject, and then selected and set up what I would like my own reading standards to be for my course. In the interest of sourcing, here is a list of the main standards I consulted in developing my own list:
- Wyoming Social Studies Standards (Note: These do not address historical reading at all, but were considered)
- My District’s Essential Curriculum for 10th Grade Modern American Studies (Note: Currently under revision. Website may be inaccurate.)
- Wyoming Language Arts Standards
- Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies (recently adopted by my state)
- Organization of American Historians National History Standards in Historical Thinking
- James Loewen’s skill list on p. 28 of Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks & Get Students Excited About Doing History
- Lendol Calder’s Cognitive Habits on the website Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey
If you’re familiar with the Strengths Finder from Gallup, I am definitely an Input person. (Yes, this is another multiple intelligence/personality/preference/etc. deal. My employer asked my team to take the strength evaluation this past year. It made for some interesting discussions and better understandings about how to leverage our individual talents on a team. But that’s a whole other discussion!) Some people think I’m a bit crazy when I look at so many different resources, but this helps me to internalize what’s out there and synthesize all that information into something I find useful. After looking over the primary skills I wanted to use, I developed two categories: primary and secondary sources. While these categories are very similar, there are some differences that are important for students to grasp. It also allows students to prevent putting the skills into one little box and thinking they can only be used for one type of document. I am hoping this will help students translate these ideas into other content areas. The skills are as follows:
Skills for Historical Analysis Through Critical Reading
1. Determine and summarize the central/main ideas of the primary source.
2. Analyze the source
-SOAPStone Analysis Method
3. Create generalizations and inferences about the primary source and/or about the historical event based on implicit and explicit information.
-Accuracy, relevance & bias
4. Cite evidence from the primary source and your own historical knowledge to support your generalizations and inferences.
5. Compare and contrast this primary source with other points of view.
1. Determine and summarize the central/main ideas of the secondary source.
2. Analyze the source
-SOAPStone Analysis Method
-Historical Fact vs. Historical Interpretation
-Reliability of sources & evidence used to support the author’s claims
3. Create generalizations and inferences about the secondary source and/or about the historical event based on implicit and explicit information.
-Accuracy, relevance & bias
4. Cite evidence from the secondary source and your own historical knowledge to support your generalizations and inferences.
5. Compare and contrast this secondary source with other points of view.
This is the basic list I can use to create more specific resources (such as detailed descriptors and rubrics). I would greatly appreciate any comments and feedback you have on these standards/skills. Thank you!