Archive for the ‘Instructional Strategies’ Category

The 5E Model: Does it still relate to cognitive principles for the current classroom?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Cynthia Holcomb, Education Specialist: Elementary Science

The 5E Model, originally designed for science instruction, describes a teaching sequence for specific units and individual lessons. The Biological Science Curriculum Study, a team led by Principal Investigator Roger Bybee, developed an instructional model for constructivism using the terms Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate in 1987.

How can we assure that a model developed almost 30 years ago will be effective for the students we teach today? A recently released report, The Science of Learning summarizes the cognitive science related to how students learn. Let’s look at the principles from that report applied to the components of the 5E Model.

Engage

The first E, Engage, is what we use to “hook” students, to capture their attention, to get them interested in the topic. This is a quick activity and may include an anecdote, a cartoon, a short video clip, a demonstration, or a thought-provoking question. Without citing research, I think we can all agree that getting students interested in learning is a valuable classroom practice.

Explore

But what about Explore? This stage provides students with an chance to build their own understanding. The students have the opportunity to get directly involved with phenomena and materials. They work together in teams, build a set of common experiences which prompts sharing and communicating, and start building background for new content. The teacher acts as a facilitator rather than an instructor at this stage, since the purpose is for STUDENTS to find new connections.

The Science of Learning Report states that “a well-sequenced curriculum is important to ensure that students have the prior knowledge they need to master new ideas.” This means that teachers should provide students with opportunities to build background knowledge needed for understanding new content. In essence, the Explore stage is still a valid and valuable part of instructional sequence.

Explain

Explain is the stage at which learners begin to communicate what they have learned. Communication occurs between peers, with the teacher, and through the reflective process. The teacher now takes on a more active role by helping students make connections and clarifying misconceptions.

The Science of Learning Report explains that, in order to help students focus on the meaning of content, we need to assign tasks that require explanations, determine causes and effects, and require students to meaningfully organize material. In a nutshell, this step reinforces the Explain stage through specific examples of student tasks.

Elaborate

The purpose for the Elaborate stage is to allow students to use their new knowledge and continue to explore its implications. At this stage students expand on the concepts they have learned, make connections to other related concepts, and apply their understandings to the world around them in new ways.

The Science of Learning Report explains that a carefully sequenced curriculum can build student knowledge over the course of a school career, enabling students to solve increasingly complex problems. When students have the opportunity to transfer a set of learned skills or content to a new situation instead of keeping the learned information in isolation, they are able to take on more challenging problems. This building of connections is at the heart of the Elaborate stage, and reinforces the power of giving students opportunities to apply what they have learned rather than just memorize and recall information.

Evaluate

The Evaluate stage is designed for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. Evaluation and assessment can occur at all points along the continuum of the instructional process. Some of the tools that assist in this diagnostic process are rubrics, teacher observation, student interviews, portfolios, and project and problem-based learning products.

In Texas, we often think of STAAR as the high-stakes evaluation piece. But in The Science of Learning Report, findings encourage teachers to also use low- or no-stakes quizzes in class to evaluate the learning process. Effective feedback is often essential to acquiring new knowledge and skills, and a low-stakes evaluation can help students see in which areas they need assistance without the pressure of a major exam.

So there you have it — a model from the 1980s reviewed under the lens of a 2015 study. While the 5E Model was developed during the era of shoulder pads, big hair, and New Wave music, its sequence is still a powerful approach for instructional delivery of cognitive principles in the current classroom.

References:

Deans for Impact (2015). The Science of Learning. Austin, TX: Deans for Impact.

 

Anchor Charts: Let the Walls Teach

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Esmeralda Alday, Bilingual

One of the first things I notice when I walk into a classroom is a teacher’s use of wall space. Having always taught multiple grade levels – in some of the smallest classrooms on campus – in one school year, I had to learn how to maximize the little wall space I had available. I learned a few weeks into my first year teaching that as glossy and sleek as the content-area and motivational posters (think that ubiquitous “Hang in There” kitten) I purchased for my classroom were, or how well-decorated my classroom was the week before school was even back in session, very little of what was on my walls was actually useful for my students in reinforcing the concepts, skills, and academic vocabulary I was working so hard to teach them. Sadly, it took a few more years for me to discover the magic of anchor charts.

What I’ve learned over a decade in this profession is that when used correctly, anchor charts are one of the most effective, engaging, and student-friendly ways to support instruction through reinforcing key concepts, skills, and vocabulary. One good anchor chart can not only replace an entire word wall, it can make the connections between concepts and terms visibly come to life for students. A great anchor chart can truly be like having another teacher in the classroom. Students can review the steps of a skill, strategy, or process during guided or independent practice using cues from an anchor chart (Harmon & Marzano, 2015).

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So what exactly is an anchor chart and what constitutes a quality anchor chart design? If an anchor is “a source of stability and security, used to hold something in place”, then an anchor chart is a sort of classroom artifact or record that provides a visual reference or cues to support students as they progress in their learning throughout the course of a unit or topic (Seger, 2009). Simply stated, anchor charts make the teacher’s instruction “clearly visible to students” (Newman, 2010). They are visual reminders of current learning for all students and are indispensable for English Language Learners who benefit immensely from visual cues for academic concepts and vocabulary.

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Above: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/559 1  

The following are some helpful tips for creating and maximizing the quality and effectiveness of your anchor charts. A quality anchor chart is:

  • Relevant – Include only the most relevant/key information to keep from confusing students.
  • Clear – Make the chart as clear, neat, and organized as possible.
  • Focused – Stick to one focus per chart to avoid overwhelming students.
  • Evolving – Allow the chart to evolve throughout the course of a unit by adding information learned as the unit progresses.
  • Integral/Useful – Refer to the anchor chart frequently to model its use for students.
  • Prominent – Display the chart where in a prominent place in the classroom where all students can see it.
  • Current – Focus on  only displaying charts that deal with what is currently being learned in order to eliminate clutter.
  • Vibrant – Make the anchor chart colorful and easily visible using dark colors.

Sources:

Newman, L. (2010, October). Anchor Charts: Making Thinking Visible. Retrieved from Expeditionary Learning: https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/anchor_charts.pdf

Seger, W. (2009). Anchor Charts: The Environment as the Third Teacher. Retrieved from Cornerstone Literacy: http://www.palmbeachschools.org/ec/ElementaryCurriculum/documents/Reading_Elementary_AnchorCharts_Sept42009.doc

Harmon, K., Marzano, R.J., (2015). Practicing skills, strategies, & processes: Classroom techniques to help students develop proficiency. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.

 

Future Ready Survival Skills

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Instructional Technology & Library Media Services

Are we meeting the mark when it comes to preparing students for success in their post-graduate lives?

Tony Wagner, Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, wondered the same thing. He conducted interviews with leaders in major global businesses, non-profits, and government institutions and discovered that students regularly fall short in seven specific skill areas that are essential for success in today’s innovation-centric economy. As you read through Wagner’s seven “survival” skills below, consider what practices you can implement or enhance in your classroom, campus, or district to help your students become future ready.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

According to Wagner’s definition, critical thinking is the ability to ask the right questions. Are we asking questions that require little more mental consideration than a Google search on a student’s smart phone? The use of Document Based Questions (DBQs ) in social studies and the Claim Evidence Reasoning (CER) framework in science are two ways to help students develop critical thinking skills in the context of content area instruction. When too many of our questions result in one right answer out of a possible 4 multiple choice options, we are missing opportunities to engage students in rich conversations in which they explain their thinking and justify their reasoning.

Collaboration & Leadership

In seeking solutions to problems, employees in the workforce will rarely work in isolation. They will be expected to collaborate with peers within organizational teams and access the input of a network of professional experts from across the globe. In contrast, the measure of success in our classrooms is based on the performance of the individual working alone. While we can’t always change our testing and grading structure, we can create opportunities for students to work in collaborative groups that are structured so that each member of the group is held accountable for his/her contribution. In addition, we can teach students how to safely access the input of experts using digital connections like social media and virtual conferencing.

Agility & Adaptability

We are living in a fast-paced and quickly changing time. Information, technology, and the problems organizations are working to solve are constantly changing. Employees need to be able to change alongside the demands of the job and adapt easily to new and evolving circumstances. Are we providing flexible learning environments that encourage students to identify and adapt elements that contribute to their maximum productivity? Are we creating opportunities for students to iterate; to observe and improve their own output? How often do we say to students, “Oh, that didn’t work. What other ideas do you have?”

Initiative & Entrepreneurism

An entrepreneurial spirit means harnessing opportunities and capitalizing on strengths to create products and services to fill needs. How often do we give students the freedom to think outside the box and provide innovative and creative ways to demonstrate their understanding of academic concepts? How often do we let them offer solutions to problems that may be occurring in the classroom, the school, the world? If we are always telling them what to do, how will they develop initiative and the ability to meet needs on their own?

Effective Oral & Written Communication

Through his research, Wagner discovered that students entering the workforce are severely deficient in their ability to speak and/or write. The problem is less about grammar and mechanics and more about students being unable to articulate their thinking in a logical manner with a compelling voice and persuasive argumentation. Reliance on the formulaic writing strategies traditionally used in classrooms restricts the critical thinking component that is necessary for effective communication. Do we let students write about topics they are passionate about? Are we giving them opportunities to write frequently in all subject areas? How often do we ask students deep questions and then give them sufficient “wait time” to develop and/or revise their oral responses? How often do we ask them to articulate the thinking behind their answers?

Accessing & Analyzing Information

Wagner says we have moved from a “knowledge economy” to an “innovation era”. When information is readily available 24 hours a day, the knowledge you possess is less valuable than what you are able to do with that knowledge. The true skill is being able to quickly access information and effectively analyze it for accuracy and relevance to the task. How often are we incorporating web-based texts in our instruction? Are we teaching students how to determine the reliability of the information they encounter online? Is research still only something we do during library time, or is it a part of regular instruction in all content areas?

Curiosity & Imagination

Innovation comes from curiosity and imagination. People who can ask the right questions and locate or iterate the answers to their questions are the people who are able to come up with unique products and services for a fast-paced world. How often do we encourage and allow students time to follow their curiosity and employ their imagination? Do we make time for Genius Hour during the school day? Have you thought about creating a Makerspace on campus for students?

By approaching our instructional practices with an awareness of these future ready survival skills we can look for opportunities to complement our traditional activities with new ideas for a new time.

Source

Wagner, T. (2008). Rigor redefined. Educational Leadership, 66 (2). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Rigor-Redefined.aspx

Flipped Classrooms

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author:  Leslie Barrett, Technology & Library Media Services Specialist

 

Flipped classrooms.  Flipped learning.  If you haven’t heard these education buzz words in the past 12 months, chances are good that you will hear them in the next. They refer to a concept, a method of teaching, that is gaining attention and popularity in schools and classrooms of creative teachers trying to meet student needs in an increasingly diverse and technology rich world.

 

What, exactly, is a “flipped classroom”?  In the most general terms, a flipped classroom is one in which the content of a lesson is delivered outside of class time (usually as homework consisting of a pre-recorded video lecture), and the practice portion of the lesson is carried out during class time with teacher guidance.  The concept of flipped learning has been around for a while, but it was most recently popularized by two chemistry teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  While co-teaching in a rural Colorado high school, Bergmann and Sams were looking for a better way to guide students through the application phase of their learning.  “The time when students really need me physically present is when they get stuck and need my individual help.  They don’t need me there in the room with them to yak at them and give them content; they can receive content on their own.”  (Sams 29)  They started recording their lectures using a screencast software called Camtasia and made the videos available for students to watch as homework.  Class time was utilized for students to conduct labs and work on content problems and activities while the teacher circulated among students offering guidance.  Bergmann and Sams later wrote a book, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, in which they give readers details about the evolution of their flipped classroom, describe the flipped classroom models and steps they employed, and share their observations on how flipping their classroom has impacted student achievement.  “We had seen our students learning chemistry more deeply than ever before, and we were convinced.  Our method was changing students’ abilities to become self-directed learners.”  (Bergmann & Sams 42)

 

Executed thoughtfully, there are many benefits to flipping a classroom.  When students watch the content lecture on their own time they have the power to slow down or speed up the lecture to meet their individual learning needs.  They can rewind and review difficult or confusing concepts.  They come to class equipped with the foundation information necessary to engage in learning activities that incorporate the new information.  Students are not left to struggle with content application at home for homework without the benefit of the teacher nearby to answer questions or provide clarification.  Instead of using class time to lecture, the teacher can circulate through individual or small groups of students checking for understanding, guiding deeper thinking, answering questions, and addressing student needs on a more individualized level.  The teacher no longer assumes the role of dispenser of information, but instead becomes a facilitator of learning as students absorb and apply the content.  A flipped classroom model provides more in-class opportunities for teachers to individualize and differentiate instruction to meet a wide range of student needs.  Flipped classrooms can create more student-centered learning environments where the ownership of learning shifts from the teacher to the student.

 

There are, however, many who disagree with the flipped model of learning.  Critics argue that not all students have access to the technology necessary to view the lecture videos outside of class.  Videos often are hosted on YouTube or other similar video hosting sites that are blocked in many school environments.  And, let’s face it, students don’t always do their homework, often for legitimate reasons.  If students can’t view the lecture videos, how are they going to receive the content delivery?   Arguments are also made that “lecture” is not the most effective method of teaching, and opponents of homework in general are definitely not in the flipped classroom camp.

 

Like any other innovation in education, flipping the classroom is something that requires careful thought and planning.  It is not the answer to every problem schools today are facing.  It is merely an attempt to create more time during the class day for individualized instruction and to nurture a more student-centered learning environment.  It is a model that capitalizes on students’ innate interest in and facility with technology. There is no rule book or strict formula for schools or teachers to follow to implement a flipped learning model–teachers can use the bits and pieces that work for each unique situation.  As you are presented with increasingly more information buzz on the topic of flipped classrooms, the most important thing to keep in mind are the students.  Would your students benefit from a flipped classroom model?

 

 

If you are interested in learning more about flipping your classroom, please join us on February 20, 2013 for our Mastering the Flipped Classroom workshop (SP1325597).

Source

Bergmann, Jonathan, and Aaron Sams. Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2012.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 3

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author: Lori Reemts, Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

In the first two installments, this series visited integration by creating a working definition and common language to guide the reader through the series with the intended understanding.  Descriptions and examples were given to identify both Direct (Explicit) Support and Purposeful Awareness.  These prove to be excellent starting points when seeking points of intersection between disciplines.  This article, now the third in the series, promises to explore the idea of skill building.

As educators we long for our students to be able to apply thinking and learning across and within content areas. We provide experiences within each content area and hope for the moment when the light bulb shines brightly signaling the student experienced some sort of revelation or connection.  We hope that our students continue to build crucial skills in order to be successful not only within their school career but also, more importantly, as adults with knowledge and skills that merge seamlessly enabling them to gain new insight, solve a problem, or make an informed decision.   These areas of success come from the application of transferrable skills rather than any spelling list or set of facts about a science concept.  These transferrable skills are both our hope and joy and our nemesis as educators because these can prove to be quite difficult to identify, teach, and foster within our students.  The new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) employ such skills to the extent possible through a multiple choice format.  Students must be able to access information previously learned and situations previously experienced and apply this learning to new and novel situations.  These exams are designed to assess a variety of skills along with content specific knowledge.

We have become quite adept at identifying various examples, vocabulary lists, strategies, and techniques within different content areas assessed through STAAR but not as adept in the skill areas assessed through STAAR, not to mention those content areas not assessed through the state program.  The very thing we long for most in our students – the development of real skills – sometimes falls by the wayside if for no other reason than because they are more difficult to identify and teach.  These skills can be found within most any student expectation by reading the verb but this is often still singularly associated with a particular content-focused student expectation.  Every discipline, including Health and Technology Applications, has a focus on skills built within it. It is in our best interest, and more importantly our students’ best interest, to focus on these sets of skills. By learning, practicing, and applying these skill sets students are then far more equipped to access the very content we are struggling to get them to remember and apply.

One example is related to data. Students are bombarded with input on a daily basis; much of which is subconsciously stored for later.  However, there are also times when we purposefully seek data.  There are many reasons that a person may need to gather some information, evaluate the source and the information, manage the information, and somehow make sense of it in order to follow this acquisition with application of some form or fashion, such as planning, communicating, or making an informed and thoughtful decision. Consider the following student expectations:

 

 

These skills found within each of the content areas all deal with data collection / information management. In total, there are at least 23 Student Expectations between these 6 areas of study that relate directly to the skills of obtaining data, evaluating the source and the data itself, and somehow managing the information. While the context is different because of the different disciplines, the core skill remains intact.

 

Just as using Direct (explicit) Support and Purposeful Awareness can serve as starting points to locate potential points of intersection, so can a skill set.  By unifying “how” students work within different contexts throughout the day, a classroom teacher can actually capitalize on the potential to connect through skills.  Students not only have more practice on the identified and planned-for skill, but also they are able to see it in a variety of situations, identify what they are doing, and use the skill to make connections within and across content areas.

 

Take a moment to look through the Student Expectations for each content area and you will see skill sets that naturally merge with skills sets from other content areas. They essentially group themselves into manageable categories making at least the identification of these thinking skills far more obvious than they would be as they exist separately.   After a scan, you will see skills related to:

  • Planning & Development; Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
  • Tools and Technology, including text features
  • Data Collection and Information Management
  • Analysis, Inference, Justification, and Making Conclusions
  • Communication
  • Making Connections

 

As this spring semester progresses, we are working on a tool enabling teachers, administrators, parents, and even students to identify skills that group themselves into broader ideas and applications.  It is sometimes amazing to see what is actually built into our state standards, right before our eyes, which can so easily turn into missed opportunities.  Interested in seeing what this looks like completed?  Keep an eye on The Scoop for more information later in the semester.
In the meantime, take some time to consider making connections and points of intersection for your students through the sheer application of a skill within different contexts throughout the entire learning day.  Both you and your students will benefit!

Writing Across the Content Areas

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author: Susan Diaz, Education Specialist, Secondary ELAR

 

“If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts, and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else. In short, if students are to learn, they must write.” –The College Board and the National Commission on Writing

I hear that students might be learning in classes other than just English/Language Arts!  Ergo, if this rumor is true, students need to write in ALL their subjects.  Still skeptical?  The Michigan Department of Education says… “Writing is used to initiate discussion, reinforce content and model the method of inquiry common to the field.  Writing can help students discover new knowledge–to sort through previous understandings, draw conclusions and uncover new ideas as they write.”  And in the report, “The Neglected R”, the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges argues that writing has been pushed to the side in the school reform movement over the past twenty years and must now receive the attention it deserves. The National Commission on Writing goes on to talk about how students have difficulty producing writing at the high levels of skill, maturity, and sophistication that is required in our complex, modern economy.  Basically, if we want our students to be college AND/OR career ready, they must be proficient writers.  The Commission’s solution to this dilemma?  Double the amount of writing by incorporating it in all content areas.

We’re not asking you to know the ins and outs of dangling participles or the STAAR rubric.  We’re talking about giving students the time to practice and hone their writing.  It’s kind of like driving a car or playing a sport—the more you do it, the better you get!

There are lots of easy ways to incorporate writing into your classrooms.  It could be as simple as an Entry Slip that asks them to summarize their homework reading or recall learning from yesterday’s class.   Giving students a few minutes to write at the beginning of class allows them to collect their thoughts and activate prior knowledge.  It also helps students see that learning is connected from day to day rather than a series of isolated events.  You can end class with an Exit Ticket asking students to write a letter to a classmate who was absent explaining what was learned that day or students can reflect on their participation in class for the day.  The Exit Slip helps students summarize their learning for the day and gives them closure.  The simple step of adding in Entry Slips and Exit Tickets to our lesson cycle can make a profound impact on student learning—it is the E in engage and the E in evaluate that frames our teaching and solidifies knowledge for kids.  Give it a try!

Strategic Note-Taking in Secondary Content Classrooms

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author: Tonia Miller,  Education Specialist, ESL Instructional Coach

Perhaps when many of us were in high school, or even college, we learned to take notes out of sheer necessity. We were lucky if the teacher paused for a moment to write a word or two on the chalk board. However, this is not the case for students in today’s classrooms. Luckily for them, 21st century learners have grown up in more student-centered environments, where oftentimes technology is used as an interactive tool for discovery learning. Given this, many students in secondary schools do not perceive note-taking skills as fundamental to their success in content area classes.

 

Why Should I Take Notes?

Contrary to student perception, research shows that note-taking skills are still necessary both to survive and excel in today’s classroom. Note-taking serves two very important functions for learners: 1) external storage of information, and 2) cognitive encoding of information (Boyle, 2011). While it is obvious to most students that note-taking is a way to keep record of important information they might forget, few students realize the power the act of writing notes has to jump-start the cognitive processing of information in their brains. While note-taking, students begin to learn and memorize content. Additionally, students will retain and recall more when notes are self-generated. Ultimately, the combination of both functions makes note-taking a critical component of successful learning. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on one researched-based strategy intended to be used during lectures: strategic note-taking (SN).

 

Strategic Note-Taking

The intention of strategic note-taking is to help students filter and organize incoming information during lectures so that it is converted into notes that can be comprehended and reviewed at a later time. The strategy also focuses on inciting students to mentally process and record information while listening. Strategic note-taking paper accompanies the strategy to prompt students to make notes through five main metacognitive cues: link prior knowledge, cluster main ideas, summarize like ideas, recognize key vocabulary, and review main lecture points (Boyle, 2011).

To help students remember all of the skills necessary for SN, the first letter mnemonic device CUES is used. See an abbreviated version of the SN paper and for a description of what students are doing at each step of CUES below:

 

 

 

 

Some of the findings of a study of SN show that, in contrast to students using traditional note-taking, students using strategic note-taking recorded more total lecture points as well as twice as many words, had greater long-term recall, and performed better on tests (Boyle, 2012, Boyle, 2010).

 

How Do I Implement Strategic Note-Taking?

Students will need to be explicitly taught SN, just as they would any other new content-related skill.  Providing the student with a description of the strategy, in addition to why they are being asked to develop this skill, is a good place to start. See the following list for some teacher tips for implementation of strategic note-taking:

  • Prior to the lecture, make your own set of strategic notes as “model notes”.
  • Use your “model notes” during the lecture to stay on topic.
  • Stress important lecture content by repeating or restating.
  • Slow down the pace of the lesson.
  • Use purposeful pause procedures (e.g., a long pause should indicate students need to record what was just said).
  • Categorize or provide a title for an upcoming list of items.
  • Monitor students’ usage of the strategy.
  • Teach students to abbreviate.
  • Teach students to identify main points & summarize big ideas.
  • Provide emphasis cues (e.g., “It is important to remember that . . .).
  • Provide organization cues (e.g., “the four main types of a cloud are . . .).
  • Use nonverbal cues such as gestures to provide emphasis.
  • Write important notes & vocabulary on the board.
  • Provide students time at the end of class to review notes.
  • Allow students to compare their notes to the “model notes”.
  • Encourage students to share notes with a partner and fill in any missing information.
  • Evaluate students’ notes (self-assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment).
  • Gradually increase the pace of lecture as students become more competent.

(Boyle, 2012, Boyle, 2011, & Boyle, 2010)

 

How do I Assess Students’ Note-Taking Skills?

Ongoing assessment of students’ note-taking skills is an important part of both skill development and learner accountability. Just as with academic skills, it is important to find individual student gaps in note-taking skills. The figure below depicts a form that has been used as a formative assessment of students’ note-taking skills as compared to teachers’  “model notes.”

 

 

 

 

The key to ongoing assessment of note-taking is to show students that it is a cyclical, reflective process intended to help develop metacognitive study skills so that they may effectively monitor their own learning.

 

How Do I Justify the Time Required to Teach Note-Taking?

Note-taking falls under the larger umbrella of study skills necessary for students to be successful learners, and techniques, like strategic note-taking, can be incorporated into content-area curriculum. Although teachers may feel pressed to primarily lecture in order to cover all necessary content, it is important to include other activities (i.e., hands-on activities, peer conversations and various other student demonstrations of understanding) to reinforce concepts from lectures. However, note-taking is a valuable skill that becomes essential for students as they take on greater responsibility for their own learning. Consequently, the time invested by teachers initially in teaching students note-taking skills pays off by propelling students towards the ultimate goal:  to be both college and career-ready citizens.

References (APA)

Boyle, J. R. (2012). Note-Taking and Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities: Challenges and Solutions. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 27(2), 90-101.

BOYLE, J. R. (2011). THINKING STRATEGICALLY TO RECORD NOTES IN CONTENT CLASSES. American Secondary Education, 40(1), 51-66.

Boyle, J. R. (2010). Strategic Note-Taking for Middle-School Students with Learning Disabilities in Science Classes. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(2), 93-109.

The Power of Reflective Practice

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Lauralee Pankonien, Senior Coordinator for Certification Administration

 

“If only I had time to think!” This sentiment may sound familiar to all of us as busy educators, but research shows that in order to be effective in our work we must treat time for reflection not as a luxury, but as a necessity.  Adults can develop the habit of mind that engages in reflective practice in order to make more informed decisions.  If teachers and school leaders are more reflective, they will be better placed to make good judgments about appropriate instructional leadership, accurate evaluative criteria and useful responses to group problems and other matters.  Therefore, informed decision making can be considered essential to effective leadership (Brookfield, 2002).

Reflective practitioners check their assumptions about good practice against the insights gleaned from colleagues, examine their colleagues’ perceptions, unearth and challenge their assumptions, and use their own autobiographical experiences and reading of educational research to help them view their practice from different, and helpful, angles (Brookfield, 1995).  These leaders are interested in understanding and questioning their own work because they take their own practice seriously.  Although today’s school leader does not enjoy an abundance of down time to kick back and mull over the situations encountered in a given day of work, it is possible to develop habits of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.

Reflection-in-action is sometimes described as “thinking on our feet,” and involves looking to our experiences, connecting with our feelings, and attending to our theories in use, which causes us to build new understandings to inform our actions in the situation that is unfolding.  Following any given situation in their work environment, educators may write up recordings, talk things through with a supervisor or colleague and so on.  The act of reflecting-on-action enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did (Smith, 2001) in order to consider questions and ideas about our activities and practice.

Decades of education research have helped us recognize that meaningful learning occurs through reflection and resolution of cognitive conflict.   Time used to reflect critically on one’s work can lead to new understandings, important new questions, improved coping skills (who among us doesn’t need a little help coping?) and innovative approaches to problem-solving (Hirsh & Sparks, 1997, Peterson, 2001).  It may be a rare leader who has built complementary personal habits of thinking on their feet when necessary and deliberately creating time for personal collaborative examination of their own practice when possible. That balance, which best represents the true power of the reflective practitioner, is a worthy pursuit for us all.

 

Sources

Brookfield, S. Using the Lenses of Critically Reflective Teaching in the Community College Classroom. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2002.

Hirsh, S., & D. Sparks. A New Vision for Staff Development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1997.

Peterson, K. “The roar of complexity.”  Journal of Staff Development, 22, no. 1 (2001): 18-21.

Smith, M. K. “Donald Schon: learning, reflection and change.” (2001)  The encyclopedia of informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm (accessed October 8, 2012).

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 2

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Author:  Lori Reemts – Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

Part 1 of this series focused on laying the foundation and seeking common language when referring to integration. There are as many ways to connect and integrate ideas as there are ideas themselves.  By defining differences between Curriculum Integration, which can be found described on documents and the like, and Instructional Integration, which can be artfully woven into the course of learning over time, we are able to identify what we can control and how that influences student success in our classroom. This series focuses on these choices: Instructional Integration.

As promised, this installment continues the conversation and begins the process of identifying key points of intersection within the curriculum by exploring two key ideas: Direct Connection and Purposeful Awareness.

There are times when different subject areas align with one another through TEKS that are directly linked. Meaningful links may be found in a direct relationship between two concepts, such as money in Math with the economics in Social Studies.  A direct connection might also be found within the language or concept of the Student Expectations themselves. Consider the 3rd Grade standards below.

 

Science

Earth and Space. The student knows that Earth consists of natural resources and its surface is constantly changing.  The student is expected to:

3.7b       investigate rapid changes in the Earth’s surface such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and landslides

3.7c        identify and compare different landforms, including mountains, hills, valleys, and plains

 

Social Studies

Geography. The student understands how humans adapt to variations in the physical environment.   The student is expected to:

3.4c        describe the effects of physical processes such as volcanoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes in shaping the landscape

3.4a        describe and explain variations in the physical environment, including climate, landforms, natural resources, and natural hazards

 

Direct (Explicit) Support

As a third grade teacher looking at any one content area it may be easy to miss. However, a third grade teacher looking across content areas should be able to identify two direct connections within the above sets of TEKS.  In third grade, students investigate rapid changes to the Earth’s surface (Science) and the effects these changes have (Social Studies).  These do not need to be separate and isolated ideas, nor should they be.  Looking at the other pair of standards listed, another direct connection between studying landforms in Science and landforms in Social Studies is easily identified.  These are connections found no further than the TEKS themselves and points of intersection that teachers can use not only to save themselves the time spent in isolated planning, but also to make authentic and meaningful content  connections in a way that benefits all learners.

 

Purposeful Awareness

While not as overtly apparent as Direct Support, the use of Purposeful Awareness is key in applying knowledge and skills to new and novel situations.  These transferrable skills are the very things we seek to build in our students so that they continue to grow and learn throughout their lives while being productive and contributing citizens in the process.  Furthermore, it is precisely this type of thinking that STAAR requires as well.  This type of thinking is more difficult to “teach”, as it must be consistently modeled and practiced using a myriad of examples and scenarios. The beauty of employing Purposeful Awareness lies in the world of possibilities and potential connections that exist within students’ minds. There is no reason that the teacher need be the expert in the room as the goal is to expand student thinking beyond what may be easily apparent or written on a worksheet.  Purposeful Awareness may often come through the use of vocabulary in new contexts to strengthen the comprehension of the language.  Other areas such as big ideas, (i.e. human impact, conservation), relationships, and skills also provide breeding ground for cross-content connections.  Consider the following vocabulary words as examples.

 

Interdependence

– A standard concept and vocabulary term in Science, this term can apply in other contexts with very little change to the working definition.  To understand the concept is to be able to apply it to new and novel situations.

– Language Arts:  interdependent characters, parts of speech, cause/effect relationships

– Social Studies: global economics, countries, opposing sides of conflict, money

– Math: sides of an equation, factors/multiples

 

Consumer

– Basic definition in science: an animal that cannot produce its own food and eats plants and other animals (as opposed to a producer–which makes its own food)

– Basic definition in Social Studies: A consumer is a person who buys and uses goods and services. A producer is a person who makes goods or provides services.

– “to consume”

 

There are obvious differences when applying these example concepts in different content areas but the core meaning remains the same.  It is the context which changes. Too often we label concepts as “terms” to be used in a particular class or within a particular scheduled part of the day.  Although we have the best of vocabulary intentions, we may inadvertently silo language in such a way that students are not readily and easily applying concepts across areas. A student identifying a word as a “science word” may easily not be able to transfer the actual comprehension of that word/concept when viewing it in a new context.  Whether units occur during the same grading period or not, using Purposeful Awareness keeps these connections alive, albeit in smaller chunks than stand-alone units.  When working in the social studies context of “consumer,” for example, we need to purposefully connect back (or forward) and point out the similarity to other areas.

 

Well-placed questions and quick tie-ins are another way to utilize Purposeful Awareness. Consider the following example. As a teacher you may be introducing the accomplishments and contributions of various citizens in Social Studies. This is actually a standard in all levels of Social Studies. One such person may be Robert Fulton, credited with inventing the first operational steamboat. This invention opened the waters of the Mississippi, which in turn had great impact on the U.S. economy and growth of the day.  During instruction, the teacher may ask questions such as those that follow.

 

  • What type of landform is the Mississippi River? River
  • Is it salt or fresh water? Fresh
  • What landform is created when it meets the ocean? Delta
  • What Earth processes are at play and shape the earth? Weathering, erosion, deposition

 

The kinds of questions enable the student to concentrate on the Social Studies message at hand, while simultaneously connecting it with concepts from science. This is done in a low-intrusive manner requiring nothing more than planned questions to tie things together. Often the best approach to these connections is simply to plan to ask the students how things may connect to one another.  Something as basic as “How does this ______ in our current unit connect with _______, our previous unit?” can be very effective in forcing students to think beyond what is in front of them and to remember previous concepts in the process.  There is always a connection to be made.

 

This process takes time. A solid knowledge of the TEKS, or a consistent referral to them, remains, as always, the starting point.  While everyone has the ability to see connections, some people may seem to see them more quickly or more easily.  While we desperately seek these points of intersection, it seems we have somehow trained ourselves not to.  Of the two techniques listed here, begin with seeking Direct Support within the standards themselves.  From there, be comfortable opening your mind to what may be less obvious.  The more this is practiced the easier it becomes.  Don’t be afraid to bring your students into this thinking journey with you. It can actually be quite fun when taken together!

 

The next installment will focus on the area of skill building.  All of the core content areas, health and technology standards include similar skills.  When we view these as a whole, in addition to the student and the learning day, we are able to better capitalize on the intent of the standards while fostering deep and critical thinking for ourselves and our students.