Refresh and #C4C15

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Refreshing this blog after stumbling on the fact that one of my PLN friends, Matthew Brewer, is a Teacher of the Year for Washington State! That’s awesome!  But what’s more important is what that means: it means he has important things to share about teaching and learning.  Please read his blog here: Learning by the Lake.

In Customers or Products, he reminds us that education is about the student — and the passions and talents that are their potentials for our futures as well as theirs.

Schools exist as a means to give students the opportunity to experience a myriad of different opinions and points of view as they discover their own natural passions and abilities.

Think about that. I know those in my PLN who live this — their #geniushour programs promote it.

And how about this idea from the same post:

…build a generation of careful and critical thinkers who have tried and failed just enough to know what they can and cannot do and aren’t afraid to push their mental and physical limits. We need students who can identify in themselves their own passions and convictions and can pursue those passions and voice their convictions with energy and enthusiasm.”

I agree completely, and hope that in our work together, that my students find their interests and strengths, passions and talents. I offer choice and team projects based on focus statements that allow students to ask their own questions.

And this idea is something I’m working on

Education is individualized as much as possible

and assessment is a conversation,

not a spreadsheet.

It is the conversations that encourage students to improve, when our class work is valuable enough that students want to improve.

Our Google Apps allow that conversation to continue online through peer and teacher comments on student work, offering feedback on what is done well and suggestions for what could be better. The focus is on the work, not a grade. I’ve also changed my rubric, which I’ve blogged about here [ Ideas for Rubrics: Feedback ].  I think of above and meeting standards as an “I see” comment and below standards as “I suggest” comments. From the comments and conversations, students understand exactly how to improve and revise. My assessment is conversation, not spreadsheets, and my students learn by doing, not “getting done.” My students and their learning is not finding facts, but is finding focus. And it is through that focus that students discover not just a “how to,” but also “how I believe.”

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Congratulations, again, Matthew, on your work and the recognition of that work as “Teacher of the Year.” I’m thankful to be inspired by you.


 

This post is part of

Ben Wilkoff‘s #C4C15 Comments for Community Project

#DigiLit Sunday GiverCraft #EDGamify

DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, November 16, 2014.

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Something exciting is happening to the balance of my classroom. It’s tipped to student control. We’ve been invited to participate in a Minecraft EDU based on the book, The Giver. The project is called Givercraft and was created at the University of Alaska Educational Technology EDET 698: Gamification and the classroom can be found on twitter at #EDGamify.

The purpose is:

“As educators it is our mission to provide high-quality, developmentally appropriate and engaging instruction to students. Through the use of MinecraftEDU students can demonstrate knowledge and understanding through building, collaboration and creativity. We hope to help fellow educators become familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”

I have seen my grandchildren play Minecraft. I have tried it [installed on my iPhone]. All I can do is punch holes. Bam. Not good. So this is my chance to learn what my students want to use to learn with. It’s my chance to see how it works — -to become “familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”

I participated in a practice session and failed. Miserably.  Have you ever taken a gaming personality test? I think this is the one I took last year. I’m an Explorer— off the charts. So I get frustrated with all the bangs and zombies and tedious builds. As Wikipedia says, “The Explorer will often enrich themselves in any back story or lore they can find about the people and places in-game” and “They often meet other Explorers and can swap experiences.”  That would be me.

So although I fail the MinecraftEDU teacher practice mission, I am thoroughly excited that my students will be able to create a Giver community based on the details of the book, working as a team to create the world of a “Nine.” And my students are thrilled, and that’s just the first task. The creators have developed modules that will require critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving based on evidence from the book to meet Common Core State Standards. Students take screenshots of their work in MineCraftEDU GiverCraft and upload them to a private wiki to explain their evidence. This is awesome.

I succeed at being willing to let go of the control and allow students to take the lead. I’m the guide. I’ve done this with other tech platforms, such as BitStrips for Schools. I create the activities, and students learn the tool that demonstrates their understanding.

What do I mean by tipping the balance to student control? With our invitation, we had only two weeks to read the novel — and even then we had obstacles – my training days, sports, testing. We didn’t think we’d make it, but we will. Tomorrow we finish the book in time to start the game.

The control I tossed to the kids. Instead of worksheets and teacher guides, I handed the kids Post-It Notes. We knew we needed to understand the meaning of the book with evidence to support our ideas. So students listened to the story and added notes to the areas they thought were important. We’d stop and they would share  and discuss the story: its characters, its plot, its setting, its community, its rules, its world. Their ideas. Their analysis. Not my preconceived ideas. They took notes — on their own in their journals to remember the details of this “same and mean” world, as they summarized. This they do willingly, thoughtfully, even as usually struggling readers. I’m impressed.

In Givercraft, they will partner up and help each other with book and journal ready; but again, they will be in charge: thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving together with evidence from the text. They’ve signed their agreements of rules of behavior for GiverCraft and understand  this will be different than the game they usually play; they understand this focus is on learning from reading by creating and collaboration, and from writing by sharing their creations and explaining their evidence.

We can do this, and I [we] will learn how to build more units that take our required standards to a new level that totally engages students and promotes deeper learning. We will be a community of learners.

I’m so glad I dared to learn, just as I expect my students to do every day. It’s a great feeling to do this together, student and teacher.

Connected Learners #ce14 #clmooc #DigiLit Sunday

Connections.  Everywhere. A network of sharing and growing.

That’s what being a connected learner is.  My connection with #clmooc has expanded my focus from one classroom and one teacher, to a networked community from which I can give just as much as I can learn.

Here’s a network, a small one:

Note: You can enlarge the MindMap and click the related links.

Create your own mind maps at MindMeister
I’ve made several connections by following blogs of people I admire and learn from on Twitter and in other communities. Here you see and can link to the Two Writing Teachers and Grant Wiggins. Their blogs brought me information about projects, workshops, rubrics, and checklists. I had already read about and started using the question strategies noted in the Right Question book, but Grant Wiggins brought it new dimension.

I designed a project based on a focus question:

Thousands of kids from Central America are entering the United States illegally — and alone.”



Students wrote and considered open and closed questions before reading an article about it. Then they answered their top three questions.

By this time I had read the blogs and Grant’s book, so I designed an authentic task that would include several Common Core State Standards as students collaborated, investigated, discovered relevant content, designed a campaign, and edited each presentation:

“With a team of peers, collaborate to create an informational or persuasive campaign for an audience of your choice to share the information you research about “Thousands of kids from Central America are entering the United States illegally — and alone.” Each team member will create a project for your campaign that meets the expectations of an investigative researcher and project designer. Together, your artifacts will present a thorough, factual, and detailed explanation, and perhaps solution, of the topic. “

Along with the task, considering the Common Core State Standards,  I drafted a set of Essential Questions which we will consider all year:

Essential Questions:

  • Investigate: How do researchers investigate successfully?
  • Collaborate: What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
  • Discover and Develop Content: How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
  • Design and Organize Presentation: How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
  • Edit Language: Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language?

I had already drafted a rubric, and now revised it to include the Standards and the five topics of the Essential Questions. Finally, I created draft checklists that explain the rubric and allow students and I to connect and confer on the progress and growth of their work. We now have authentic work: Kids Alone.

Student chose their focus, audience, and purpose and began their investigations, collaborating in teams. I confer with each team as we discuss the checklists and transfer our progress to see how we meet the expectations on  the rubric.

Here are the project documents:

As we work on our campaigns, students are connecting with each other and with me. I provide feedback towards learning goals and standards, and peers teach peers as well. Here is one example from a team of four students: Debate: Are You For or Against Obama?  There audience is bloggers, and their purpose is to consider both sides of an issue.

So, through my connections in blogs, on Twitter, and through blogger’s books, I have developed a learning progression that differentiates student learning, expects high standards of work, and provides a venue for students to connect and collaborate as well. Since many have chosen to publish work online, their connections could grow globally.

We are all connected learners.

 


Post also part of NSD21 and DigiLit Sunday:

DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, October 19, 2014.

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#DigiLit Sunday Essentials #ce14 #ccss

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DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, October 12, 2014.

DigiLit Sunday  this week is a review of what is essential.  That’s been my focus this weekend as I develop tasks for students that are authentic for readers, writers, and researchers. What does that mean?

essentialquesitonsFortunately, I read in my Kindle App the book Essential Questions.

It’s great review for those of us who focus on projects because, no matter what, it’s student learning that is important. Grant Wiggins also wrote a great post on inquiry, PBL, and UbD — provides this gem:

“And that gradual release idea is the essence of backward design in UbD – and a great place to reflect this weekend. How am I designing the year to make it most likely that students become increasingly autonomous as questioners and arguers (in the Common Core sense) – while still learning and understanding content of value? Viewed this way, there is no dichotomy at all between UbD and inquiry-based pedagogy.”

“How am I designing the year to make it most likely that students become increasingly autonomous as questioners and arguers (in the Common Core sense) – while still learning and understanding content of value?”

If my students are to become independent, they need to have choice in doing the work of readers, writers, and researchers. They now need to develop from our work in previous years their own projects that present their work. They work to be collaborative and authentic.

Essential Questions as overarching and transferable elements of language arts are key. So I looked at the verbs and nouns in the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and developed a set of questions to start the year — and will add to them as our projects dictate. Because I teach Language Arts, students have some options in content, and so I am releasing some questioning responsibility to students as we follow the Right Question strategy.

I realize that essential questions can be the guiding work of our coarse and also the specific questions of content.  So we consider Essential Questions, and a guiding rubric scale that includes more specific questions and criteria for the language arts content. But what does that mean? If I’m teaching and releasing responsibility, I need even more. The Two Writing Teachers reminded me of writing checklists, so with our new standards, we need new checklists, which I created for each of the essential components that guide our work: collaboration, investigation, content, design, and language. These are our beginning.

And how do we bring this all together for students? A ThingLink:

As we change our task — to choice or teacher driven, we have a basic set of essentials to guide our learning. It’s not perfect yet, but we are moving in the right direction, together.

So, in our work together, students and I are guided by essential questions, focused questions, scales, and checklists. Our work is open in ThingLink [Kidblog for students] and Google Apps.

How do you keep your projects open for students, including the essentials of learning?

#DigiLit Sunday Differentiation

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DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, September 28, 2014.

 

How do I differentiate reading materials so students can approach grade level standards?

I’ve discovered four valuable resources with a Common Core State Standards focus:
Actively Learn   Link to your Google Account; set up classes for students with different levels of reading material.

NEWSela  Link to your Google Account; set up classes for students with different levels of reading material

ReadWorks Leveled Reading Passages

ReadWriteThink Lessons, Online Inter-actives

I love that I can find leveled texts to challenge students or to bring them into the conversation so they can think critically and collaborate to learn the skills needed to be life-long readers.

What sites have you found to help your differentiation of reading materials?

#DigiLit Sunday Assessing Blogs

How do you assess blogs?

What is your purpose?

That is the question.

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DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, September 14, 2014.

This week’s DigiLit Sunday is a follow-up to Margaret’s question last week: How do I turn this activity into data? 

How do you assess blogs?

What is your purpose?

That is the question, and that determines the data.

For some, the purpose may be writing fluency. Then assessment would be to provide feedback on the increased number and length of posts.  [ CCSS: 10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences. ]

As students develop fluency, suggest organization of paragraphs — not the five-sentence paragraph, but the idea of topic and support. [CCSS: 4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. ]

Next, add in conventions — sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.

If fluency and foundational skills are not the focus, then consider:

  • design — the theme, layout, widgets, links, focus, invitation to participate, categories, tags [CCSS: 6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.] 
  • content — topic, support details, vocabulary, questions, style [ CCSS: 1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. 2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. 3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. ]
  • conventions

Perhaps the focus is writing:

  • organization
  • ideas
    •  [CCSS: 4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. ]
  • voice
  • word choice
  • sentence fluency
  • conventions
    • [CCSS: 5  Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. ]

Perhaps the focus is collaboration:

  • research
  • connect
  • share
  • collaborate
    • [CCSS: 6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others  7  Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. 8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism. ]
    • [CCSS Speaking and Listening 

Comprehension and Collaboration 1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. 2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. 3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas 4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.]

For a thorough review of blogging with students, see Silvia Tolisano’s work at Langwitches:

I especially like this rubric she created [click to enlarge]:

Silvia Tolisano’s Rubric

My hope is my “assessment” is a conversation with students and students with each other, so that the learning is a growth goal of which reflection inspires improvement. Therefore, an ongoing component of blogging would be a reflection by the student of the growth their blog demonstrates. If I must give score from a rubric, the important part is still the conversation, goal-setting, and reflection!

What are your thoughts about assessing blogs and gathering data?

#DigiLit Sunday #Chalkabration Poetry

sundaydiglitIt’s Sunday!

 

DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, Aug 31, 2014.

 

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We also join Betsy Hubbard’s Chalkabration.

 

 

To be digitally literate means that you communicate with the tool that fits best. Betsy asks us to share poetry in chalk, on chalkboard, on black paper, or on the sidewalk. Some people may even want to play with neon writing in apps as an adaptation. If you write or draw your poem, you’ll need a tool to snap the image and upload it to your computer to place in your blog: that could be a digital camera or phone. And perhaps your poem is fits with a video format, using an app like Vine.

 

The important idea is to choose the tools – digital or analog – that fit your audience and purpose.

summer_chalkabration

What about the poem? Of course, you’ll need to write your poem, using powerful words and chalk that colors that make your idea pop. Don’t have an idea? Read others’ poems to for a spark of an idea. Then use your powerful writing strategies to write your idea, to create an image in the reader’s mind. Snapshot. Figurative Language.

Writers don’t just prewrite, draft, revise, edit, publish. Writers are always thinking about the end — what the words look like and sound like, and how to best get those word ideas across – with color, image, video, illustration, etc. It’s a recursive process, moving back and forth into drafts to make the words, and the accompanying media, work together.

If you look at my poem in the image or Vine, you won’t see how I thought about the end of summer and moving into fall. I didn’t use “Fall” or “Autumn.” But I inserted the word “slip” as another word for fall to complete the alliteration of “Summer slips slowly.”  I then thought of “falling” to bring “Fall/Autumn” in with “slip,” adding “with leaves” to complete the connection. My colors start with spring green, summer great, yellow, and two shades of orange to move the words through the seasons. The small leaf added the final touch, the end of summer. Since the breeze kept blowing away my leaf, I added the vine, a perfect tool to accentuate the poem.

So, the writing process started with the spark of the end of summer, and through thoughtful give and take of ideas and words, my poem came alive — using the tools needed to share with other #chalkabration writers.

How about you? How do you show your digital literacy? How is your process?

 

 


Common Core State Standards

Anchor Standards

Writing

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

6.3E Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.

Reading

6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone

7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.