Thursday, September 10, 2015

Building Growth Mindset Culture #connectedteachers Twitter Chat

Questions for tonight's chat:

Q1: What are the characteristics of a growth mindset school culture?

Q2:  What are the ways that a growth mindset school culture can positively impact instructional practices?

Q3:  How can a site administrator encourage a culture of growth mindset?

Q4:  What are some of the ways that teachers can support one another while developing a growth mindset school culture?

Q5:  What do parents need to understand about a growth mindset school culture?

Q6:  What can you do tomorrow to move your school community toward a growth mindset?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Formative Assessment, Technically

As a departmentalized fifth grade teacher, I work with about 90 students.  With that number of students, it isn't always easy to get one-on-one time with each of my students to formatively assess their grasp of mathematical concepts, as well as their ongoing use of the Standards of Mathematical Practice.  

When looking for opportunities to integrate technology into mathematics instruction, it occurred to me that there are many apps that provide a great fit for gaining essential information that I could use to inform my instruction. Many of these apps would fall into the category of "Interactive white boards."  Some of these are Educreations, ShowMe, and Explain Everything.

Although each of these has components that are unique to their individual app, they have the same basic functions.  Students can show their thinking by drawing, inserting pictures, or typing text.  An additional feature, which adds a level of metacognition, is that students are able to record their voice to explain their thinking.  Finally, students are able to share these recordings with their teacher by submitting a shared link as an assignment in Canvas, an email, or by posting an embed code on a wikipage.  

I chose to use Educreations for this feature because it is free (Explain Everything in iTunes) and it does not require users to be 13 years of age (ShowMe).  My students had previously used this app for myriad assignments in both reading and science.  This was the first time that I asked them to use the app to explain work in mathematics.  (Full disclosure:  I am in a classroom with 1:1 iPads.)

To begin, I selected an item from their Unit 5.1 Lesson 3 (Engage NY) homework.  The students received the mathematics instruction found in this lesson from my amazing colleague, Bill Joolingen.  The lesson's objective was to use exponents to name place value units, and explain patterns in the placement of the decimal point I was curious to hear students explain their thinking when solving this problem.
As I listened to students' recordings, I was able to hear them not only explain their mathematical thinking, but also take risks that they may not feel comfortable doing in front of the class.  It was so interesting to hear students alone with their thoughts.

I know many of us struggle with assessing the SMPs.  The use of videos such as these provide a window into a students use of the Standards of Mathematical Practice and give us, as practitioners, a starting place at which to inform our differentiated instruction for students.

Additionally, we are provided with an artifact of each students proficiency or need for support that can be saved and shared. This can be a valuable tool for communicating with parents or with other educational professionals during response to intervention collaboration.

The following videos are the recordings of two of my fifth-grade students, as well as some of my thoughts after hearing their work.

Student 1:

When listening to Student 1's recording, it is obvious that he is struggling with language acquisition, specifically with language found within the mathematics discipline.  Although his work is sound, as an English learner, he needs more exposure to mathematical terms and opportunities to speak mathematically. 

Student 2:

First of all, I think that Student 2 disconnected the microphone at about 2:25 in the video, so I was unable to hear all of her thoughts.  :(  During the portion that I did hear, it sounds as though she has a grasp of the procedure, however I would love for her to work more on her explanation.  I want to hear why the decimal point is "shifted to the left" when I am dividing by 10^2 and to the right when I am multiplying by the same number.  Just before the three minute mark, she could be explaining that, but I can't know for sure because of the loss of sound.  I included the video to reiterate the point of how crucial it is to be able to hear the student explain their mathematical thinking, as opposed to just watching them complete the problem.

I am overwhelmed by the amazing amount of information I obtained by watching these videos on many of my students.  I look forward to using the app more in the future for other formative assessment opportunities.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Same shift, Different day

Another of the Common Core memes has found its way across the internet.    In this incarnation, a basic algorithm is show at the top and described as the "old fashion" (sic) way.

At the bottom of the page, you will find a seemingly convoluted way to reach the very same answer and it is described as the "New" way.

I steer clear of these memes as they are obviously loaded and created by people that aren't truly researching the new Common Core State Standards but instead by people that have clearly have an agenda decidedly against CCSS.

Successfully I stayed clear, until I was called out on my Facebook page by a member of my own family.  She posted the picture and asked me to explain to her and her friends the reasoning behind this type of math.

As I am sure that I will need to access this reply again, my response follows:
Let me begin by saying, that paper shown in that picture is obviously written by a parent, perhaps frustrated, maybe even with an agenda against Common Core, who is trying to make a point.

I do not know a teacher that teaches that second way as "the new way."  There are, however, teachers that would accept that answer as a correct response...I would be one of them.  Stay with me for a second before you form your opinion...

The top algorithm is the ultimate goal, but that algorithm is devoid of meaning unless students have built a good number concept.  Introducing the algorithm too early is one of the reasons that adults today struggle with math.  They didn't understand the concept, they were just taught the shortcut.  In the long run, their mathematical prowess would be damaged, although it may not become evident until higher level mathematics.

To build that good number concept, we teach kindergarteners and first graders (especially) to work from landmark numbers (5s and 10s) which it looks like this student was using.  If I saw a third grader doing that, I'd be worried.  I'd worry that his/her number concept was weak.  However, think of how much more information I would get from the second problem than the first.  If a student wrote 32-12=22...would you be able to adequately analyze the incorrect student response in order to design a lesson for remediation?  It would be hit of miss.  I prefer not to teach like that.

Now, if I saw a Kinder or first-grader completing that second problem, I would be blown away at their mathematical critical thinking.  The fact that they could deconstruct the problem in order to get to an answer would lead me to believe that this students has a firm grasp on concepts needed to move toward the algorithm.

The Common Core mathematical movement is really a move deeper instead of a movement to a "new way."  We want students that think critically about math so that they can apply that critical thinking to other facets of the practice.  

If we only teach them the shortcut and they don't understand the concept behind it, we are doing a disservice to our students and the future leaders of our nation.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Notice and Note

During my school district's implementation of #CCSS, I have been fortunate enough to serve on the District Language Arts Workgroup.  In these meetings, we have had spirited debate and discussion regarding not only Common Core State Standards and its implementation, but also the strategic instruction required and the research to support that instruction.  

While discussing the need for students to actively participate in close reading of texts, I noticed that one of the excerpts of research that we were reading referenced a new book by Kylene Beers and Robert A. Probst titled Notice and Note:  Strategies for Close Reading.  I ordered the book and tore through it.  

I easily tout this book as the most easily applicable professional reading that I have ever read.  

I won't give you a book review, as you can find those on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and through Heinemann press.  Instead I'll give you a quick layout of the book, tell you why it appealed to me, and how I implemented the strategies in my fifth grade classroom.  

The book is organized into three main parts:  "Part I-The Questions We Pondered" is a discussion of critical topics that affect readers and reading instruction, "Part II-The Signposts We Found" explains the signposts that are the meat of the close reading strategies, as well as the questions that correlate with each signpost, and "Part III-The Lessons We Teach" provides model lessons to use in your classroom.

Quick, but relevant, bird walk here...
Chapter 2 of Part I really struck a chord with me directly.  The title of the chapter is "And What is the Role of Fiction?"  The "aha moment" (to borrow a signpost) for me was the idea that students can learn sympathy, even empathy, through fiction.  In essence, we learn to be human through the humanities.  It made me reflect on my reading instruction for the current year.  Since my grade level is departmentalizing, I am teaching Reading and Science.  It stands to reason that a large amount of my reading instruction has occurred while integrating non-fiction Science texts into my reading instruction.  I resolved to increase my fictional reading instruction and this professional text was exactly what I needed.  

I began implementing the strategies using the model lessons found in Part III.  The "teacher talk" that they suggested was helpful, but I found that I need to modify it to make it relevant and interesting to my groups.  The texts (excerpts of novels and short stories) that were provided...oh wait, did I fail to mention that?  Yes!  The appendix of the book has a reproducible excerpt of text for teaching, as well as one for reteaching, if necessary, each signpost.  Although these texts are provided, my classroom is pretty close to paperless and I was not excited about duplicating these for my students to mark-up.  After a quick internet search, I found that Heinemann provided most of these in pdf form.  Yay! (Click the tab titled "Companion Resources")

I taught one signpost a week until all 6 were mastered by the students.  As I taught a signpost, I would post the signpost, as well as the corresponding question for easy student access.

 I also created a page in my LMS with the anchor posters.  The anchor posters are also clickable links to pdf versions of the text excerpts.  

After all of the signposts were solidly holstered in their metaphorical tool belts, I knew it was time to put their skills to work on a novel.  I chose Number the Stars.  We read the novel aloud and discussed the signposts as they came along.  At times, we recorded our thoughts in writing but more often than not, the questions inspired partner talk and classroom discussion.  One thing that I shared with the students is that there was no "wrong" answer for a signpost as long as they could make the case for why they felt it fit. It was so empowering and triggered so much powerful dialogue.

As we came across signposts, I recorded them on a class mind map.  

Students recorded them in an app on their iPads and they were as individual as the students themselves.  Here are a few examples:

Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have.  I would also love any feedback that you may be able to provide.  Thanks for looking!

Moving forward...

I am starting fresh on this blog.  I am hoping to use this as a place to file things that I use and possibly as a resource to other teachers, if they see fit.  

I am in my second year of 1:1 iPad implementation. 

My instructional prowess has grown exponentially and my focus has sharpened significantly during that time.  I look forward to sharing some of the things that I have implemented in my own class, as well as networking with my PLN to continue to learn more.

Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet.  I can't wait to see the places we'll go together.  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Sync...

...or Synchronicity II.

A small update:
As previously mentioned, I have experienced a problem with apps syncing to some of the iPads.  I have noticed that the students that religiously and regularly log into iBoss when they begin using their device tend to have all of their apps updated without issue.  I do notice that the devices that I have to "handle" in order to begin the sync have not been logged into iBoss and I have to additionally enter the iTunes password at the AppStore.

Alternate issue (and the reason behind this post):
During the course of my day, I work with 4th grade intervention students that use the System44 program.  One of the core components of that program are a series of Audiobooks that students listen to   multiple times and then complete a series of responses that help them increase their literacy skills.  They are really well-designed, in my opinion.

The books come with a CD that students can use to listen to the book.  From years of experience, I have found that there isn't a portable CD player that can withstand the paces that an elementary student can put it through.  So, scratch portable CD players.  Computers are at a premium with the program, as students must utilize the System 44 software in order to advance through the program.  So, no computers to play the CDs.  A few years ago, I purchased some middle of the line MP3 players that I preloaded all of the Audiobooks, but they have been literally played out.

Which brings me (FINALLY you are probably thinking) to my great idea.  I would load the Audiobooks onto the MacBook Pro and then sync the Music to all of the devices.  The whole library would be at the students' fingertips at precisely the right time and entirely individual to their needs.  Super-duper awesome!  Right?  Not so fast....

I could NOT get the devices to sync the music.  I checked all of the device settings.  I checked my iTunes preferences.  All fine.  The music should have automatically synced wirelessly, said it my most petulant voice.  Up until this point the iPads had never been connected via USB to the MacBook Pro, as they were able to sync over WiFi.  *sigh*

After way too much fretting and frustration, I finally made an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar to get some help with my music sync issue.  She explained that in order to sync music I would have to connect the iPads (one at a time) to the MacBook Pro and click (and unclick) a few important things.

Here are the steps (borrowed from Apple Support pages...but translated into easy to understand "point here-click here" language):

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Connect the iPad to your computer using the USB cable and select it in iTunes under Devices on the left-hand side. Some tabs may not appear if you do not have corresponding content in your library. For example if you do not have any podcasts in your library, the corresponding Podcast tab will not appear.
  3. It will prompt you to Register or Continue.  Select "Register Later."
  4. You will then choose "Set Up a New Ipad" and will need to rename your iPad.  I chose to name my iPad in this pattern "Del Rio iPad 001" through "Del Rio iPad 135."
  5. Now that you have connected your iPad via USB, you will need to CHOOSE the button that says "Sync with this iPad over Wi-FI under the "SUMMARY" tab.  

Whenever the computer and the iOS device are on the same network, the iOS device will appear in iTunes, and you can sync it. The iOS device will sync automatically when all of the following are true:
  • The iOS device is plugged in to power
  • iTunes is open on the computer
  • The iOS device and the computer are on the same Wi-Fi network
You will also need to UNCLICK (if it selected) the button that says "Manually manage music and videos."
WARNING:  This is true in my case because I wanted EVERYTHING in my iTUNEs library to sync.  (I had only Audiobooks.)  If you want to choose select music and/or libraries you will need to be sure that this button is selected and manage this under the "MUSIC" tab.  

Additionally, while the iOS device appears in the left-hand column of iTunes, you can select the content tabs and configure sync options.

Be sure to click Apply or Sync to sync the iOS device or all of your work for naught.  Don't ask me how I know.  I just do.  :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ties that bind...

Yes, I believe that most blog titles should closely resemble a pun.  That is how I roll.   :)

I wouldn't categorize this post as a particularly heavy contribution, but one that I wanted to share, regardless.

One of the management issues that we have run into is being sure that the correct power cord is connected to the appropriate iPad.  It has resulted in many frustrations and erosion of precious time in my classroom.

I decided to attach a bread tie to the end of each power cord with the assigned number written upon it.  The students never have to remember if we are plugging from left to right or right to left.  They need only look at their dangling tie to be sure that they have the correct power cord.

Ok, confession time.  I have a small amount of OCD when it comes to organization.  Organization makes me VERY happy.  And those pictures...up there... ^^^  make my heart sing.  :)