"The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that can not read them." -Mark Twain

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Collaborative Project Reflection

Engaging seniors anytime after spring break is a seemingly impossible task. Therefore, Mary Davenport and I created a unit which allowed our seniors to use technology and be creative through the lens of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go". When I informed my seniors they would be creating a presentation using Movie Maker and Photo Story about their journey through AVID to present during AVID Family Night, they lit up with excitement. Using technology allows students to express themselves in ways they can't do with glue and poster board. They can find meaningful pictures, use appropriate/fun text, and bring it all together with some music. The students felt empowered by this assignment, and wanted to learn more about how they can use these programs when they are out of school. I showed them films I have made with my family, and the Photo Story I created at the beginning of the year for my students. They loved learning about the two programs, and were eager to begin making other films/Photo Stories after the graduate.

Through this process I started thinking about how I can incorporate more of the excitement I saw in mt AVID students in my other classes. So many times we are forced to stick to the curriculum and the pacing guides and we lose sight of our own creativity as teachers, which in turn makes it so we don't allow our students to be creative either. Next year, instead of paper after paper in my English classrooms, I will use other means and use my data to show why students learn more when they are excited about the assignment than when it is the same thing they did last time. Of course I will still have traditional assignments, but I want to make sure I am showing my students learning can be fun too.

May Blog

As this year comes to a close I am reminded of why we are all here, the students. Too many times the politics of school cloud our brains and make us forget why we work so hard, especially this year. We need to remember there are many teachers around us who ARE here for the students, and who do want to grow and work collaboratively with their peers. WE need to remember that we are not alone in our quest to help students grow and achieve their many dreams. We are not alone, and we need to stand together. My goal for next year, is to do a better job of creating a truly collaborative environment within the English department and throughout the school by using blogs and wikis. I started doing this at the beginning of the year, but was quickly buried. The more access teachers have to resources and the more open communication is between teachers and administrators, the more productive our classrooms will be for our students. I am going to keep this in mind and put it into action as I transition into next year.

April Blog

I had the opportunity to attend a "Differentiated Assessment and Grading" conference this month, and it opened my eyes to the flaws of our current grading system. Too many times grades are based on homework, participation, and formative assessments-when really they should be based on how well the students meet the standards based on authentic summative assessments. If a student can reach the standard without doing the formative assessments or other tasks provided by the teacher, why should he/she have to do those assignments? Or more importantly, why is he/she placed in that class to begin with? We need to be more cognizant of how we are calculating our grades, and what message we are sending our students.

Here are some quotes/information form the conference:
-"Students learn to be their own advocates in a differentiated class, which make sit possible for them to advocate for themselves in a non-differentiated environment."
-"Whoever does the editing does the learning."
-"A 'D' is a coward's 'F'. The student failed, but you didn't have enough guts to tell him."
-If we do not allow students to re-do work, we deny the growth mindset do vital to student maturation, and we are declaring to the student:
*This assignment had no legitimate educational value.
*It's okay if you don't do this work.
*It's okay if you don't learn this content or skill.
-Grades should be based on the 4.0 scale so the "F" doesn't hold so much weight (i.e. F ranges from 0-59 and other grades are only within a 10 point range)
-All students should understand the standards and be able to explain why or why not they have attained proficiency.

With this in mind, I and others who attended this conference, are proposing we move our grading scale from teacher discretion to 90% summative assessment and 10% other. This will be a difficult transition for teachers and students, but it is a step towards standards-based grading, which is what we all need to be practicing in our classrooms.

March Blog

Research, research, research! My seniors have officially started their final research projects and are loving it. They are researching the UN Millennium Goals and many of them are using academic journals for the first time ever. Too many times research skills are dismissed as a lesser skill because it is not evaluated on CSAP; but, I argue that if our students can research well they can: critically read; summarize; paraphrase; analyze reliability, credibility, and bias; synthesize; and evaluate. Research brings in the highest level of skills we can offer to our students if it is done correctly. Without the ability to research our students will be missing essential skills when they graduate from high school. If a student can research well, he/she can do anything. We need to fight to bring research back into our classrooms on a more consistent basis BEFORE their senior year of high school.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February Blog

I am currently pursuing my MA in ELL through CU Bueno Center, and have decided to create a website of resources for teachers to use with ELL students as part of my practicum. I plan to share this site with all teachers at Adams City High School as well as my fellow Global Learners. My hope is that this site will help teachers who have no background knowledge about how to effectively teach ELL students create lessons that meet their students' needs. Without the knowledge I have gained through my graduate program I would be completely lost this year. I now have more students than ever in my classes who speak little or no English, and need to provide an appropriate education for them as well as the other students in my classes. The website will provide teachers with articles they can read about ELL students and multicultural education, assessments they can use with their students to determine their language ability levels, vocabulary strategies/handouts, literacy strategies/handouts, and writing strategies/handouts. Once I have the site published I will be asking for some additions to the site from my fellow Global Learners who teach middle and elementary level students. Eventually I, with the help of others, would like to create a comprehensive site all teachers can use when working with ELL students.

January Blog

Implementing the Teach for Success model has been a difficult transition at the high school. I constantly question what the best method is for our students and how we can best prepare our students for success in high school, college, and the workforce. In some ways, because we are at the beginning stages of implementing Teach for Success, I feel we are teaching to the lowest level students and not providing the rigor necessary to help our middle and high achieving students grow. I know this is not the intention of the program; we need to fix it immediately! However, in its current implementation, the day to day monotony of "I do", "We do", and "You do" seems to be blocking our students' critical thinking processes, because we tell them how to think; it hinders their creativity because we are all required to reach the same outcome; and it has unfortunately almost completely eliminated teaching students how to appropriately use technology (not a GLET in many cases). None of these should be what is happening in our classroom, but after being in some classrooms that is what I am seeing. I know this program has merit and has been successful in other districts. I have had some opportunities to do walk-throughs with the Teach for Success trainers and see how it can help teachers and students of all ability levels grow when it is used appropriately and the feedback is meaningful. I think the fear teachers have of not getting the check marks and the way in which the program has been introduced to teachers is where there is a disconnect. I have faith that the next steps of implementing this program will allow us to truly differentiate for student and content needs. There is not a one size fits all program for education. We all teach differently and learn differently and some allowance must be made for individual differences if we want to see passion for learning in our classrooms and hallways.

21st century learners should not be spoon fed information!

Monday, December 7, 2009

November Post

I had the pleasure of attending the NAGC Annual Conference in St. Louis this month and realized how ignored our gifted and talented students are. We are so focused on moving the “u” students to “pp” and the “pp” students to “p” that we forget to make sure our advanced students are growing. We need to make a more conscience effort to differentiate in our classrooms not only for our low performing students, but also for our gifted students. The district coordinator purchased materials from the conference, and I will be posting some of the strategies as we progress through the year.

During the conference I also listened to Howard Gardner speak, which is a moment I will not soon forget since he is one of my intellectual heroes. After his presentation, I met with a few students who attend one of the nation's few Multiple Intelligences schools. I have never met a more well-rounded, self-sufficient group of students. It was clear they felt valued in their school, understood how they learned, and understood the differences people have when learning. These students had all attended a traditional school before attending the MI school, and expressed how they felt they were being crammed into a box in the traditional school. In the MI school, they are able to express their individuality and not be forced to learn in a way that is uncomfortable to them. What a concept!

As I was sitting and listening to these students and teachers speak, the inevitable question about testing was asked, "Are the students in your school held accountable for state testing." The answer is yes, and their test scores are some of the highest in the state. This MI school does not force students to learn in any certain style and does not force students to take benchmark tests throughout the year, yet their test scores are some of the highest in the state. It made me question what we are doing with our students, not just in Adams 14, but across America. Why don't we allow students to learn they way they feel comfortable learning? Why don't we value every type of intelligence and not just linguistic and mathematical intelligences? Why do we test our poverty-stricken students and ELL students more frequently than students who perform well on tests when those testing days could be spent in the classroom? Is it not abuse to continuously not value our students' individual needs?