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Jan 2 15

Skills Learned in School

by Alfonso Gonzalez

After writing about the 21st Century C’s I added the Caring C to the list of skills I had put together. I also found some other skills to add to it. It seems to me that Caring fits better with life skills than the four C’s. If we can help students practice the following skills then we are doing our job preparing them for whatever they have coming. With so much content to teach and so much knowledge it’s the skills that are important and they are valid for any content area.



I changed the wordle on my Powtoon slideshow. I also made the slideshow into a Powtoon video embedded below. The only part that didn’t transfer to the video are the Youtube videos I put in the slideshow.

Here’s the first video in the slideshow that didn’t make it onto the above Powtoon video (I selected these videos to impress upon students the need for tech skills):

Here’s the second video:

Here’s the third video:

Dec 29 14

The C’s Revisited

by Alfonso Gonzalez

Click on image to see it.

After reading Bill Ferriter’s post NEW SLIDE: SKILLS MATTER MORE THAN TOOLS I began to reflect on the skills my students are gaining as they work and learn in my Science classes. Students have access to technology in my classroom just as they have access to pencil, paper and textbooks in other classes. The tech is just a tool we use. Sometimes I get questions about why I integrate so much tech. I usually answer with reasons why the tech makes our work and learning better such as it’s convenient, it’s effective, it allows for differentiation and individualization, and the tech allows us to go paperless as much as possible. But now I see that the tech also makes it possible for kids to practice using The C’s of the 21st Century as well as gaining other important skills they will need in life.

As I wrote on The C’s of the 21st Century, if we consider Connecting, Communicating, and Collaborating as being in the same vein, or as really just one C, then I have come to conclude that these are the four C’s of the 21st Century (as opposed to the 3 R’s of the previous centuries):

As I reflected further on Bill’s post I have come to see that there are other skills that we all need to get and keep jobs. I’ve put together this list to share with my students:

After putting together the two images above I remembered a twitter conversation I had back in April where Dico Krommenhoek reminded us of a very important C that I keep forgetting.

So I added this image to remember the skill that brings all the aforementioned skills together.

I put together this Powtoon slideshow to share these ideas with my students when we get back together in 2015.

Dec 27 14

Holding Students Accountable

by Alfonso Gonzalez
Some Rights Reserved - Polly Hutchinson

Some Rights Reserved – Polly Hutchinson

As if in response to my Relationships or Taskmaster post, the Smart Classroom Management blog published the following post called Are You Afraid to Hold Students Accountable? It’s definitely worth a read as they make a valid point. According to Smart Classroom Management following your classroom management plan is the best way to hold students accountable and that by following your plan can you effectively build rapport with your students.

My thoughts on this are rambled so I don’t know if any of this will make sense but here it goes. Personally, I don’t make a big deal about my classroom management plan so at first glance it looks as if I don’t even have one. That is a clear no, no according to Smart Classroom Management. Our school has systems in place to give kids options when they are making it difficult for the other students in class to learn. We have what we call a solutions room where kids can reflect on their behavior or even work where there are fewer distractions. I try to use that room sparingly and only send kids there when they ask or when they do not stop bothering others. Sometimes I send kids there to work when they aren’t working in class. It can be difficult to work in class when there are so many people around to socialize with or goof around with. Kids who end up needing to use the solutions room for behaviors that impact other students then get assigned lunch detention. We communicate with parents when that happens so they can help their children make better choices in school. I also use Classdojo to communicate student behavior with parents weekly. That’s the closest thing I have to a classroom management plan.

So the way I see it is that there are two different ways of dealing with student behavior in a classroom (well, at least two that deal with the topic of this post, my earlier post, and the Smart Classroom Management post). Either you follow a management plan regardless of the circumstances or you deal with student behaviors as they come up. After reading Lost at School by Dr. Ross Greene I see the value of having conversations with students and trying to deal with the issue that has led to the behavior. (Read more by Joe Bower about using Dr. Greene’s method of Collaborative Problem Solving). It should matter whether a student is misbehaving because they struggle with school work, they are having problems at home, they got into a fight with a friend, they are really excited about something, they ate too much sugar or drank coffee, or they are bored with the work they have to do. I think each situation can warrant a different response from me.

I am not the type of teacher who will follow a management plan to the letter. Never have been. My first few years of teaching I was shown Lee Canter’s Assertive Discipline and used that method to craft my management plan. What I found is that I didn’t always stick to the plan because some situations warranted different responses. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of building rapport with my students over the past 23 years even though I don’t follow a clearly set classroom management plan. Times when my system has failed can be attributed to students who probably would’ve responded better had I stuck to clearly defined management plan, but I can’t be sure.

So even though I got an answer to my original question I’m still not satisfied. I’m not satisfied because it wasn’t the answer I wanted. Clearly I wanted to hear that building relationships is more important than holding students accountable and that dealing with behavior problems on an individual basis will work just fine. I wanted to hear that I shouldn’t sweat whether or not kids are on task or working all the time but whether they are enjoying their time in school, enjoying their peers, and enjoying their teachers. The answer I got was that by having fixed, clear boundaries, which I can have by having and faithfully following a classroom management plan, I can hold students accountable all the time and therefore be able to build relationships even better. I still say that my way will work. And, for better or for worse, it’s the way that I naturally flow. In order for me to change and become a classroom-management-plan-following-teacher I would need to work at it and consciously change my habits over and over again until it stuck. It can be done but I don’t really want to do that.

So even though I will hold kids accountable. Even though I will try different methods to help them work and learn. Even though I will send them to the solutions room or give some feedback home via Classdojo. Even though I do talk and try to make a case for getting work done class or for not goofing around to get students to reconsider their actions. Even though I stress safety as the reason for our classroom routines and procedures, especially during labs. There’s a part of me that values relationships over sticking to a plan because when I think back to the teachers I had in school the ones I remember aren’t the ones who stuck to a classroom management plan and held me accountable, they are the ones who took the time to get to me know me in some way.

Dec 12 14

Away Team

by Alfonso Gonzalez


Here’s the next installment in the continuing Voyage of the Starship Equinox (the QR code is clickable):

Dec 12 14

Hour of Code Week #HourofCode

by Alfonso Gonzalez
Some Rights Reserved

Some Rights Reserved

This week I had all my 6th grade classes try their hand at coding and programming using the great Hour of Code resources. I could have just pointed kids to the part of the Hour Code website with all the tutorials but I decided to make myself an account and add all my 80 students from my three classes.

Had I just let students loose on the tutorials they could have taken it from there. A computer lab or even using our old 1st Gen iPads, iPad 2s, netbooks, laptops and old iMacs would have worked fine. It took a little more preparation on my part to manage all my students’ accounts but I think it was worth it. Here’s their educator resources.

Since I already have all their names on a CSV file, I just copied and pasted whole class lists to my Code.Org teacher account. Then I printed and cut out card sized account links and passwords for each student. They went to the link for their class, clicked on their name from a list with everyone’s name and put in their secret words to log in (I did that because I didn’t want to have to use student emails, which would have made accounts for students where they got to choose their own passwords).

Through my teacher dashboard I can manage all the student accounts and see their progress so I can tell how well they enjoyed their coding practice and exploration. I did a bunch of the tutorials myself and they were fun. It seemed a lot like Scratch, the way you setup the code to move characters around. You also have a choice at the end of each puzzle to see the actual javascript code, which I thought was way cool. Kids were having fun, they were practicing coding, and problem-solving and learning about providing specific directions to get their characters to where they wanted. Every student who has tried their hand at the coding activities has liked it, been engaged and enjoying it!

[Added this after the first draft of this post.] With regards to the teacher dashboard and the student accounts I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong but lately students have been complaining that they do the puzzles and their account does not show them as being done. I check on my dashboard and there also it doesn’t show as done. I have a test student account that I’m using, I always create myself a test student account so I can use it as a student will, and I’m having the same issue of completed puzzles not showing as completed. That has been a disappointment because that’s why I setup the accounts in the first place! My backup plan has been to see the students certificates of completion. They get that after completing a set of puzzles for the different tutorials. There are tutorials for all age levels it seems. I tried one that was too easy and the kids pointed out that it was an 8 year old plus tutorial. :)

All in all, Hour of Code week this year, my first, was a great experience and fun for us. :)

Dec 11 14

Relationships or Taskmaster

by Alfonso Gonzalez
Some Rights Reserved

Some Rights Reserved

I struggle with this every, single year. The balance between being a taskmaster and building relationships with students. One way to think of classroom management, according to Lee Canter (Assertive Discipline) is that dealing with kids is like working with your bank account. Building relationships with kids can be seen as depositing money into your bank account. When you need to redirect a kid, or ask a kid to do something he or she doesn’t want to do, or if you need to have a negative interaction, you are making a withdrawal from your bank account. With most kids we can redirect and still have a positive balance, especially if the relationships are positive to begin with you will always have plenty in the bank to draw from if you ever need it. As long as there is a balance in your back account, the interaction with the student will work and remain a positive relationship. Funny thing (funny, no, that doesn’t really fit but I can’t think of a better way of starting this sentence) is that the ones that have the most money to draw from are the ones that you rarely need to make a withdrawal!

Some Rights Reserved

Some Rights Reserved

But what about those kids who need more redirection? You have to be careful because making a withdrawal when you have no money in your bank account leads to trouble. For these kids you need to make withdrawals more often and they have the least money in their accounts. The idea here is to build relationships with these kids too so that you have enough money to draw from when you need to redirect or ask them to do things they’d rather not do. The trick is knowing how much to deposit and whether or not it’s there when you need to withdraw it. Once you’re in a negative balance either the student will not comply with your requests or your relationship will be damaged. Making more deposits may become more difficult if you let your balance go into the negative too often.

I find my interactions with students to be positive for the most part. Sure there are times when I redirect if I feel kids are socializing too much or doing things that are not appropriate for a Science classroom full of young people. For the most part, those redirections work just fine. I have money in the accounts to draw from. With some students the redirection becomes a balancing act. How do I know when I’ve tried to withdraw too much? In other words, how much can I ask of a student, how much can I prod and ask for work or different, more appropriate behavior for our space and time before he or she has had enough? That is the balancing act that happens for teachers all the time. We ask a student to get back on task, to stop throwing the ball in class, to stop annoying her teammates, to clean up her mess, etc and if she doesn’t we might ask what’s wrong or why not or we might just ask her to change her behavior again. Sometimes that’s okay. I’ve withdrawn just enough and the student changes her behavior and may even get back to work and learn something. Sometimes I will withdraw too much and the student shuts down or gets angry.

Right on the spot we try to deposit some funds into that bank account! How can I help? What can I do? What’s wrong? I try to see how I can help the student. Always the balancing act of how much can I ask of my students before I reach the limit and have withdrawn just enough. It’s much easier to build relationships, or make deposits. I listen as my students tell me about their day. I tell them about my day. We just chat sometimes and laugh together and genuinely enjoy each other. At that point I walk away and check in with other students. But eventually I have to come back and notice that no work is getting done or that some behavior really isn’t appropriate for our time and space. Then what? Do I withdraw what I just deposited?

So I wonder everyday, during every class, how much do I build relationships and how much do I keep my students on task? It’s a balancing act and sometimes I withdraw just the right amount, and some days I try to withdraw too much. Then I have to make sure to deposit some money before I make my next withdrawal.

How much do you build relationships versus keep kids on task? And do the new standards and high stakes tests make you feel guilty when you do spend time building relationships?

Dec 10 14

Navigating Systems for Students

by Alfonso Gonzalez

This past May and just recently in November I was fortunate to be able to present a session at two wonderful leadership conferences for newly certified National Board Certified Teachers or NBCTs. Washington state’s Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession or CSTP invited me to show some of the ways that I was sharing what was going on in my classroom to help those who make policy for education, but don’t work directly with kids, understand what goes on in a classroom. I also shared ways that I have been able to get funding for my students to do Science.

The title chosen for my presentation was Navigating the Systems of STEM. It took a while for that to grow on me and now I think it’s a pretty good title for what I shared. The only part that isn’t quite so accurate is the STEM part because the ideas I share can be used by anyone, in any subject area and/or grade level. So really the STEM should be SHTEAM (adding Humanities and the Arts).

Here’s the presentation I created with links and resources I shared:

Dec 9 14

Rule Out the Klingons?

by Alfonso Gonzalez

star-trek_communique Our class ship, the USS Equinox, was dispatched to investigate the mystery of the destruction of the Bombay when they discovered another destroyed ship, the Tholian Aen’q Tholis. Unlike the Bombay, the Aen’q Tholis was destroyed by what appears to be phaser fire from another starship. Whatever destroyed the Bombay was not responsible for destroying the Aen’q Tholis. The question the crew of the Equinox has is whether or not the destruction of the Aen’q Tholis and the destruction of the Bombay are related in any way?

The only starships near the Aen’q Tholis belonged to the Klingon Empire so Ambassador Jetanien, back at Starbase 47, is questioning the Klingon Ambassador to determine if the Klingons had anything to do with the Aen’q Tholis’s destruction.

To find out what happens next, students found this QR code in the classroom (it is a clickable link for those who are viewing it on the device they use to scan QR codes):

To figure what to do next, students also found this QR code in class the day after finding the above code (also clickable):

Dec 8 14

Personalized Learning

by Alfonso Gonzalez

I found this cool infographic on personalized learning:
Personalizing Learning Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Nov 17 14

Text-Dependent Questions #ccss #ngss

by Alfonso Gonzalez

I read this article in the Instructional Leader on Text-Dependent Questions. As part of the WA STEM PD grant that my school got we are working in our grade level PLC (Professional Learning Community) for one cycle followed by departmental PLC. There’s a different dynamic to PLC work when you meet with your grade level PLC than when you work with your Science PLC. In a grade level PLC we have the same kids but one of us teaches Humanities (Language Arts/English and Social Studies), one of us teaches Math, and I teach Science. I can share parts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that are cross cutting with the Common Core (CCSS). Text-Dependent Questions (TDQs) is one such concept that does not depend on subject matter. We can ask TDQ’s in any subject area since it’s all about asking good questions that come from a particular text.

I took the image from the article and embedded links to the explanations of the different types of TDQs for easy reference. I created the embedded links with imagespike and just made webpages of the written descriptions. Just click on the circle thingy near each TDQ type to get the explanation.

I wanted an easy way to remind myself when I forget. Maybe someone else will find this useful.

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