May 28

Diigo Links (weekly)

More amazing resources from this past week!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/05/28/diigo-links-weekly-68/

May 24

What About Robotics?

Originally published on the CORELaborate blog!

 

Earlier this school year I volunteered to be part of our district’s Science Subject Area Committee (SAC) to come up with recommendations to the school board for a grades 6 through 12 Science adoption of new NGSS curriculum. The team was made up of two high school Science teachers, a grades 4 through 12 alternative education Science teacher and one middle school Science teacher (me). At the middle school we’ve been spending time the last couple of years aligning our existing curriculum, much of which is teacher-created, to the NGSS so finally getting a turn at not only new curriculum but curriculum for the entire year AND NGSS aligned got us middle school Science Teachers very excited.

One of the topics that came up while previewing what was out there in terms of NGSS-aligned curriculum was the kit versus textbook concept. The NGSS is aiming to change the way we teach Science to students and, in my opinion, using textbooks to teach science lends itself quite easily to teach traditionally.

 

The Earth Science text we adopted back in 2001.

 

Each chapter of this textbook is divided into three or four sections and each sections ends with review questions such as these.

 

This is a lab taken right from the textbook at the end of the section on soils.

Textbooks usually, as shown in the Copyright 2001 textbook above, start with an activity, have content for students to learn by reading a chapter or section, answer questions to review their learning, then conduct a lab to try out their new learning. The NGSS recommends starting with what they call a phenomena then have kids interact with materials to try and make sense of the phenomena. Once our students are hooked, the Science concepts will be easier to learn. They will be more motivated to learn Science because they are trying to unravel the phenomena (we are curious creatures after all).

Kits, on the other hand, typically come in containers with all the materials needed for all the labs (See photos below). The textbooks or student workbooks come separately and are usually thinner than traditional textbooks. Sometimes the books are soft cover books instead of hardcover.

 

Here’s what the Foss Diversity of Life kit looks like. This is one of the drawer-type boxes that come with the set.

 

Here’s the drawer opened to reveal the contents (this one has been used for a few years so is not as neatly packed or complete as it should be). 🙂

 

This is an example of what materials are included in the aforementioned drawer or box. Each box comes with different materials for the different labs in the unit.

 

The Kits I have used, Foss and STC/MS, start with an activity much like the textbooks do, what I gather is the phenomena, then goes right into a lab before asking reflection questions based on the lab. Slightly different progression. The part I appreciate as a Science teacher is that we start with a lab, then make sense of the Science (the reading comes after students have engaged with the lab). I have done more labs teaching from kits than using textbooks only. See images below of an STC/MS kit book.

Kit textbook is lab-based, starting with a lab.

The questions in a kit-based textbook are typically after the lab asking students to reflect on what they learned and the data they actually collected.

Another draw of kit-based Science curriculum, especially for elementary teachers and even middle school teachers, is that all the lab materials are in the kit and organized for immediate use! The teacher does not have to order all the materials separately because they come in the kit! The labs can be setup quickly freeing the teacher to focus on helping students learn. Plus, the teacher does not have to worry about pacing and developmental sequencing of activities because the kit makers took that into account when putting the labs together. I hear from many teachers who use textbooks that they have to come up with their own labs because they are typically not satisfied with the labs presented in textbooks.

So in my search for an NGSS kit-based curriculum, I went to the kit providers I’ve used recently. I started by looking at the STC/MS from Carolina biological. At the time I checked there was no mention of NGSS alignment (a recent search shows that maybe that has changed and they are now offering an NGSS curriculum!). I then checked Foss and they only had some of their middle school kits aligned with more to come in 2018 (we really want to adopt and be ready to go in the fall so that didn’t work). I then heard of IQWST from Activate Learning and their kit-based curriculum for middle school was fully NGSS integrated. I recently spoke with a gentleman who works for a company that was hired by Activate Learning to evaluate their IQWST curriculum development and he assured me that they built their curriculum using the NGS Standards!

So I built my middle school curriculum recommendation around the IQWST curriculum for grades 6, 7 and 8. I thought the work ahead was going to be smooth sailing working with just IQWST until I was able to attend this year’s NCCE conference in Portland. I was drawn to a few sessions and workshops about robotics. Science is cool and awesome but the idea of STEM and Robotics, in particular, was appealing to me because it’s something I’ve not been able to provide my students. And doing an Hour of Code every year for the past few years has shown me how engaging beginning coding and coding-type games are for kids. So I went to some robotics sessions to see what I could learn and boy did I come away inspired!

Curiosity on Mars!

By pure chance I saw a pattern emerge from the seemingly disconnected sessions and workshops I attended, a pattern of engaging students in STEM AND NGSS through robotics and coding! Specifically, using Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kits. One session I attended introduced me to the STEM Robotics 101 free curriculum for the EV3. After that session, I attended a workshop where I got to play with an EV3 and program it to do stuff and I was hooked! Lego building also naturally incorporates engineering, an integral component of STEM AND NGSS! And come to find out, the STEM Robotics 101 free curriculum hit the physical science NGSS standards that I am already doing with my 6th graders in addition to the engineering standards! It all just fit too well.

This is what it looks like when kids are working with a robot like the EV3.

So tomorrow I present my new plan for a 6th grade STEM curriculum based on the STEM Robotics 101 curriculum targeting the same NGSS physical science standards we are supposed to help students learn, and an IQWST adoption for grades 7 and 8. I’ll share more and let you all know how it went in my next post (I don’t want to share too much before our school board gets to hear what I’m planning)!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/05/24/what-about-robotics/

May 21

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s incredible resources!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/05/21/diigo-links-weekly-67/

May 14

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s resources curated from all the blogs I read and the amazing people I follow in Twitter!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/05/14/diigo-links-weekly-66/

May 07

Diigo Links (weekly)

Yes! More amazing resources from this past week! Check these out:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/05/07/diigo-links-weekly-65/

Apr 30

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s amazing links:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/04/30/diigo-links-weekly-64/

Apr 25

How Do You Engage Your Students?

This post was originally published on the CORELaborate blog!

Do kids already have grit??
A comment left on Kristen’s Movement in the Classroom post by Carina struck a chord with me. In her comment, Carina wrote, “If my students need a break from our learning every 10 minutes, what am I teaching? How can I make it more engaging and/or meaningful?” This post is not to discredit or in any way deny that humans, both adults and children, need movement and brain breaks! This post is just me questioning whether what I am having my students do in school is engaging and meaningful enough to them. I believe the questions we ask ourselves about the engagement level of the tasks we are asking of our students are important questions! We can argue if the things we are having our students do in school have to be engaging or meaningful to them or not but the truth is that if those tasks are not engaging and meaningful to students, some students will disengage. Carina mentions a post written by John Spencer where he makes an excellent point, when kids are doing something they really like, they do NOT have attention span difficulties. When kids are doing something they like, they will focus for extended periods of time. In John’s post he gives six strategies for cultivating creative focus in our students in class. He’s got some great ideas there. So that made me wonder about the kind of grit and perseverance our kids already have.

Ken Whytock - Some Rights Reserved

Ken Whytock – Some Rights Reserved

Is it all about Engagement?
How to make learning more engaging so that ALL my students are working and producing occupies a lot of my thinking! In a standards-based classroom environment, students can meet any given standard when they are ready there’s no such thing as losing points for learning later than others. Once a student meets standard, that student has met standard just like everyone else. Even then I still have students who do not meet all the standards. They have more time if they need it but they don’t all take advantage of that. We might say that the students who didn’t meet standard and quit trying to meet standard are lacking perseverance or grit. What John Spencer noticed about focus, I notice about perseverance and grit. All this perseverance and grit stuff works really well for things we like and/or are already good at. Kids DO have grit, perseverance, AND can focus for extended periods of time ON THINGS they love! We present perseverance and grit to our students sometimes as if they don’t have it or they don’t know what it is all about but that’s not the issue or problem. So the strategies we need, the real question we are seeking to answer, is how to do we motivate our students to do things that we deem as important for them that they don’t necessarily WANT to do themselves? It isn’t just about having grit or perseverance, it’s about having grit and perseverance to do things they don’t want to do. Or, it will have to be about changing what we have our students do so they will do things they can persevere through!

Compliance or Empowerment?
Some kids do what we ask in our classes and they do so regularly. They trust us and believe that what we are asking them to do will actually help them get the future they want. For the most part, these kids often find that they are good at the things we are asking them to do in our classes so it makes it easier for them to do those things. That is not true for all of our students. Some kids don’t seem to find that what we’re asking them to do is worthwhile or not worth their while. They might try some of what we ask them to do, but won’t persevere because it’s just not interesting enough. If they struggle with the tasks we are asking them to complete, it’s even worse. I have always found it amazing that some kids would rather sit and do nothing than engage in what the other kids in class are doing. So Carina’s question, how do I make what I’m teaching more engaging and meaningful to my students, is the question indeed in my humble opinion.

Ken Whytock - Some Rights Reserved

Ken Whytock – Some Rights Reserved

Is Genius Hour THE Way??
So I wonder, does that mean that all those schools that are embracing Genius Hour are on the right track?? I mean, homeschooling works for many children, and they get to have Genius Hour all the time. I wonder about this because I have never provided Genius Hour time for my students in Science. From my understanding, letting kids choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it and how they present or share that they learned it, empowers them and motivates them to focus and persevere through difficulties and problems. For teachers, it’s a leap where we will have to trust that our students will learn enough to do well on the standards we are assigned to teach so they can show growth including passing state tests. The teacher must somehow map the skills, content, and standards that all the students are learning when engaged in Genius Hour type projects and activities. I do not doubt that kids are learning, maybe even learning way more than doing something I created for them or something in my school’s scope and sequence or curriculum. The problem is keeping track of what ALL of our students are learning and maintaining a plan from grade level to grade level to ensure students get the content, skills, and standards they need for their future whether it’s college or career. Personally, if I saw an opportunity to teach at a school that had a strong student-centered Genius Hour style, I would want to work there!

So What Do I Do?
I have tried several things to engage more and more of my students.

  • I built a 1:1 program in my classroom through grant writing to put technology in the hands of all my students. How can our kids be fully prepared for their futures without using technology in school?
  • I went gradeless (here’s mine) to make learning all about intrinsic motivation to learn and not about getting or losing points. I wanted the focus to be about the content and not the grade.
  • When going gradeless, especially all by myself while other classes gave grades, didn’t work as expected (students loved having a class with no pressure but many of them used that freedom to do very little or no work), didn’t work I switched to Standards-Based Grading (SBG). SBG turns out to be a happy middle ground between traditional A – F grading and gradeless.
  • I’ve used Project-Based Learning (PBL).
  • I’ve tried Gamification.
  • I brought World of Warcraft to my 6th graders!
  • I’ve used technologies that make my presentations more interactive, such as Pear Deck, and make quizzing more exciting, such as Kahoot.
  • I give my students choice as to how to show their learning, for example, they can make movies, stop motion animations, Google Slides, comic books, or any other way they come up with. I even have flexibility with the content. As long as they are learning the standards, they can go in different routes from the rest of their classmates.
  • Currently, I’m working on a proposal to teach Science to my 6th graders using Lego Mindstorms EV3 programmable robots because we are on a Science adoption cycle and I got inspired at this year’s NCCE Conference! More on this on a future blog post!

You’d think I would have given Genius Hour a shot! Even though I understand that there is no silver bullet in education that will engage or reach ALL students, well at least not ALL the time, I’m still in search of it! It keeps me active and on the hunt. So what have you tried that engages more and more students? Do you have Genius Hour at your school?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/04/25/how-do-you-engage-your-students/

Apr 23

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are some great resources I found this week:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/04/23/diigo-links-weekly-63/

Apr 19

How to End the School Year Strong!

I was so happy to be asked by Larry Ferlazzo to be his Q and A BAM Radio show again! This time we tackled the topic of how to end a school year! I got to be on the show with Pernille Ripp, a teacher I’ve been learning from for years on Twitter and on her amazing blog! It was so cool!

Larry has us submit a written response then we get to record our ideas for the radio show. Here’s what I wrote on his EdWeek Teacher Classroom QandA blog:

Response From Alfonso Gonzalez

Alfonso Gonzalez has been teaching grades 4 to 8 for 25 years. He is a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of Early Adolescent Generalist with a Masters of Arts in Teaching and has completed two ISTE Capstone certifications. He blogs regularly at Mr. Gonzalez’s Classroom:

How do you keep all your students engaged in learning when summer vacation is quickly approaching? I’ve heard it before and I can tell you that it works for me and my students: a project.

Project-based learning or problem-based learning (PBL) has many benefits for ending the year focused on learning and schoolwork instead of watching movies, having parties, and passing the time away until summer vacation starts.

Why PBL? When ending a school year here are the benefits of ending with a project:

  • Students have the potential of being engaged in a project that is based on a real-world, maybe local, problem. That way you don’t have to tell them why they are learning about the topic they are studying, it’s built right into the project! That makes the work students do the last days of school relevant. Relevancy is important.
  • Projects lend themselves readily to collaboration and teamwork. Working with peers is important to students, especially those last days of school.
  • Teams can focus on students’ diverse skills and talents. Teams need a leader, a manager, artists, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, designers, speakers, note-takers, and technologists. Being able to use their skills and talents gives students a purpose and having a purpose is important.
  • Projects have the opportunity to allow for student choice. Even if the teacher chooses the main topic, students can still have choices. Students can choose:
    • Who they work with (let them self-select their teams),
    • What sub-topics they study,
    • How they learn about their topic(s),
    • How they show their learning,
    • What tools, for example, technology, they use to learn and show their learning!

Projects can happen before, during and after standardized testing. If you start a project before testing day it’s easy enough to take time off from the project to do some test prep and make sure students are ready for the tests. On test day it’s actually quite relaxing to sit with project teams, check in and get some work done on the projects. And once testing is over students can focus wholeheartedly on their projects and make sure they finish on time.

And if you build in presentation time and evaluation (self, team as well as teacher evaluation) then the last days of the year will be filled with student presentations and discussions of each other’s projects! I believe it is important to end every school year on a high note and ending with a great project does just that!

Click here to read Permille’s response and Jeremy Adams, the other guest on Larry’s show.

Here’s the radio show (click on the link if you don’t see the embedded radio show below):

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/04/19/how-to-end-the-school-year-strong/

Apr 16

Diigo Links (weekly)

More amazing resources and incredible blogs:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2017/04/16/diigo-links-weekly-62/

Older posts «