Thursday, April 20, 2017

Motivating Students with Feedback

As always, the Collab Lab was guided by feedback from staff in planning the April 3, 2017 In-Service Day.  That feedback led to some designated sessions, including an emphasis on social-emotional learning, while still allowing room in the schedule for sessions to be suggested on April 3rd.  With staff asking for SEL sessions, the staff at The Academy at Forest View also joined us to present and participate.

One of the EdCamp sessions allowed teachers to discuss ways to motivate students through various uses of feedback.  Peter King, from The Academy at Forest View, and his student teachers shared some multi-purpose tools for teachers to provide feedback through engaging activities:

This is an assessment tool in game form.  Students compete against one another but are able to work at their own pace.  You can adjust settings for time, order of questions (random or set), due date, etc.  Students get to create an avatar, and they receive funny memes after each answer they select.  Teachers can pull from pre-made quizzes and share their own quizzes with other teachers.

Here is a teacher-led, student-engaged activity for the classroom.  You can import an already created presentation into Nearpod, and enhance it with interactive formative activities for students to answer a questions, watch a video, or draw a diagram.  Teachers can dictate which slide all devices are on, or you can set it into student-led mode.  Here, teachers are also able to share their presentations or pull from the public domain of already created Neared activities.

This activity provides students with an interactive way to showcase their knowledge of multiple choice and true/false questions.  Students hold up their assigned QR code in the direction of their multiple choice answer (A, B, C, D, E), and the teacher scans the QR codes with his or her iPad.  Students are able to answer without feeling self-conscious, only seeing whether or not their answer was read by the iPad, while the data is immediate for the teacher to see who answers which questions correctly.

Here is a competitive, timed formative assessment method for multiple choice questions.  Students compete against their peers to answer prior to the buzzer, with the correct answers in quicker time get awarded more points.  The leaderboard is updated after each question.  Now, they have updated to allow for a Podium of top 3 winners, instead of just the sole winner.  This increases motivation with students to keep competing, even if they aren't in first place.  Lastly, they have added a feature called "Jumble", which is designed for questions that rearrange events, build a step-by-step order, or unscramble concepts.

This website allows you to quickly turn a Google Sheet into a fun activity.  You can choose from creating notecards to a Jeopardy game, crossword puzzle, Bingo game, a Mad Lib, and many other engaging activities for students.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Vive la collaboration! A Language and Cultural Adventure in Europe!

By Kirsten Fletcher & Effie Kalkounas

On Thursday March 23rd, 2017 a group of upper level French students, led by Kirsten Fletcher of Elk Grove High School and Sara Kahle-Ruiz of Rolling Meadows, embarked on a whirlwind tour to France, Switzerland and the principality of Monaco.  Chaperones included Effie Kalkounos of Elk Grove High School, and Caleb Parnin, Linda Thorson, and Tim Waters of Rolling Meadows High School.

The itinerary included the city of lights, Paris and its beautiful landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, L’Arc de Triomphe.  Students then took the TGV- Train à Grande Vitesse, France’s bullet train, to Switzerland.  Mrs. Kahle-Ruiz had grown up in Switzerland and showed the group many of her favorite sites. Their stops in Switzerland included Geneva and Lausanne where students witnessed firsthand the beautiful Alp mountains.  In Geneva, students connected to history and science content as they visited the UN and CERN. After Switzerland, the group went to Grenoble France, a beautiful mountain town where students saw breathtaking views at the top of the mountains. Then, students stopped in the magical town of Annecy with its pristine lake and backdrop of the Alp mountains.

After that, students boarded a bus and were off to the south of France: Provence, which is Mrs. Kalkounos’ favorite part of France! With its sunny climate, exquisite beaches and Mediterranean flair, it is no wonder why people flock to the French Riviera. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm.  The people were friendly as they tried to coax us into their stores to buy lavender and various other trinkets.  The best part of the trip, in my opinion, was the Mediterranean boat cruise in the village of Cassis.  The natural beauty of this area was astounding! The group finished their trip in Nice. Ah yes, isn’t it nice to be in Nice! The students were able to go to beach and dip their toes in the Mediterranean, walk through the Promenade des Anglais and enjoy lovely French food like salade niçoise, crêpes, croissants au chocolat and more. The group even took the opportunity to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie in French!

Because the trip was limited to students currently enrolled in French classes, the tour guide was able to give students a lot of information in French. She interacted with them and encouraged them to speak and read French at every opportunity. Every evening we were treated to authentic French food. The students who participated in this trip were enthusiastic about trying new foods, using their French, and learning to interact with the local culture. Read on to see what our own students wrote!

And to finish with a reflection from student Anna Slezak:

"This year's trip to France and Switzerland was a wonderful opportunity which built my confidence and taught me how to adapt in a foreign setting. It expanded my cultural sensitivity, teaching me how to act in unfamiliar situations. Simple things like ordering lunch or asking for directions push me out of my comfort zone and taught me to connect with people despite differences. Now I want to become fluent in the French language with the hope of coming back one day and carrying out a full conversation. I'm very thankful for the chance to explore this amazing country and learn about its culture and language."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Using Metacognitive Strategies to Increase Student Reading Engagement

By Jackie Figliulo 

Whether asking students to engage with class-assigned texts or books of their choosing during independent reading, I’ve always struggled to get students interested in being readers.  And why should they be interested?  Because-the-teacher-said-so works for very few students.  Then when a text challenges students, its subject matter is “boring,” or their cell phones are mere inches from their itching finger tips, because-the-teacher-said-so just simply won’t cut it.  

Enter metacognitive strategies.

Telling students to think about their thinking piques their interest as we start our class each year.  Showing them that we all approach and experience a variety of texts in our own way allows them to understand there is no one way to be a reader and a thinker. Showing students it’s ok to not know everything and to ask questions is a valuable part of being a reader.  Promoting metacognitive strategies in class also tells students that their individual experiences matter and are valuable.  
In my English classes, I most intentionally employ metacognitive strategies during independent reading.  Students bring a book of their choosing to class on Fridays and are instructed to read for a given amount of time (25 minutes in quarter one, 30 minutes in quarter two, etc).  Once they’ve read, they complete a metacognitive reflection, answering five out of seven questions that applied to their reading experience that day.  Each quarter we make improvements to the reflection sheets so that students can use them in ways that make most sense to them as critical thinkers.

Now, how can I assess students’ thinking and reflections in a meaningful way? The metacognitive conversation.  

Each quarter, I return the students’ reading reflections all at once.  They get to look through their reading experiences from the last ten weeks and reflect on their progress, problems, and evolving thinking.  Using their own reflections as evidence, students prepare for our summative assessment:  the metacognitive conversation.  

Students must prepare for the metacognitive conversation by answering six to seven questions about their reading for the quarter.  They must reflect on what they did throughout the quarter and then set goals or propose solutions to their reading road blocks for the following quarter.  The day before our formal conversation, we review the procedure, expectations, and evaluation [see assignment sheet], then choose two student facilitators to guide the discussion the next day.  In order to participate, students must have their reflections and admittance slip (completed questions).  During the conversation, students discuss their thinking, approaches to the text, problems they encountered, and make recommendations to each other about text choices or methods.  At the close of the conversation, students complete a self assessment of their performance during the discussion.  Their reading reflections, admittance slips, self assessments, and my notes make up their final grades.  
The metacognitive conversation is a valuable, focused evaluation of one of my overarching quarter learning targets: students will be critical thinkers of texts and their own thinking.  It allows students of all reading levels to show growth and be measured on their own personal progress.

Another benefit of using metacognitive strategies and this method of assessment is the community it builds in our classroom.  I come to know how my students think as individuals and can use that to inform and differentiate my instruction.  Additionally, students get the chance to relate to one another as academics, not just as peers sharing the same space each day.  

I continue to struggle with intentionally embedding metacognitive strategies in all parts of our curriculum.  I hope to create a classroom where individual, critical thinking becomes the class norm, not just something we do on certain days.  However, the metacognitive conversation days give me hope that my students and I are at least on our way!

Please feel free to come observe a metacognitive conversation at the end of May (exact date, TBD) periods 2, 3, 6, 7, 8! :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Are Creative Projects a Dying Art?

Lately, as I reflect on my unit plans, I find myself continually coming back to the same questions. What is the purpose of this activity? Is this going to help my kids master the learning targets? Is this going to give me the information I need about where they are currently at with regards to mastery? When I answer these questions truthfully, it sometimes means that I no longer see any justification for some of the “fun activities” that go along with novels I am teaching. As much as we have a good time creating funny Facebook profiles for Lady Macbeth, I’m not totally convinced that the activity provides anything more than just a few laughs. But, does that mean that I should cut out all opportunities for creativity in my classes? I sure hope not.

I recently gave my Honors World Literature students (sophomores) an opportunity to demonstrate in a creative way their understanding of Chinua Achebe’s important African novel, Things Fall Apart. I asked them to focus on important themes, character development, cultural significance of the novel, and/or metaphorical and philosophical analysis of the text. They had a lot of freedom in designing and implementing their visions, but the learning targets were the same for everyone:

  1. I can thoughtfully evaluate and explain important themes, characters, and significant events in Things Fall Apart.
  2. I can understand the point of view of a particular culture presented in a work of literature.
  3. I can provide formal, written analysis to explain my creative project, including textual evidence (quotes + page #s).
  4. I can speak with enthusiasm and expertise when presenting to my classmates.

It might sound cheesy,  but watching these students really pour their hearts into their projects was nothing short of inspiring. I was truly blown away by their creativity. More importantly, I was thoroughly impressed by their insightful commentary and meaningful conversations with classmates regarding the novel. So, was this creative project a worthwhile assessment? I’ll let you be the judge.

For more information on each project, please leave a comment or contact Kristen on the Twitter link above!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#214EdPrep: Karolina Shares Her Teaching Experience

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts discussing the collaboration of the Collab Lab and our EG Ed Prep students.  Please follow along on our journey using the hashtag #214EdPrep or clicking on the label #214EdPrep in the word cloud!

By:  Karolina Rusiniak

I intern at Clearmont Elementary school with the ESL program. The teachers compose normal lessons with the students, such as math centers etc. just like they would in their regular English classroom. I decided to try the app Classkick with the class this last Friday.  [See this past blog post about the Spark Session on Classkick.] I prepared a slideshow of about 12 pages of line graphs and worksheets and fraction free response questions. 

When I arrived, the class was divided into six groups each working at a different math center and would rotate every ten minutes or so. The students were very excited to do the classkick! They told me they have never done such an activity where they could directly write on their chrome book and have the teacher check their work automatically. They informed me that they loved the fact that I could check their work as they go and that I could give them stickers as rewards. Also, they loved working at their own pace through the presentation. 

What we found as a challenge was that it was hard to write on their chrome books and having the opportunity to write on their tablets would make it much easier. Some students successfully logged into classkick through the internet on their tablets and said it was much easier than working on their laptops. I am still working on exploring the program, but, personally, the only challenge I came across was that since the kids were divided into six groups, some would get on and some would get off the program and I would have to take some time and look for the students that are on the program to check their works- they were scattered all over the list. 

Other than that, I really loved using the program and they informed me that they would love for me to make another slideshow for their math centers again. I think that if I could change some things about the program, I would come up with a more effective way to alert the teacher when the student presses "please check", and I would love to have the students who are working on the program to show up in one place and the students who aren't to be moved somewhere else, yet still visible. Overall, I really enjoyed working with the program! I took some pictures, but I was told I could only use them for classroom purposes, but i will gladly show them to You in person.

More blog posts to come.  Follow #214EdPrep and @EGCollabLab for more!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A New Angle to an Old Problem: work ethic & motivation

By Kim Miklusak

Motivation and work ethic are two common phrases uttered by teachers at times, usually in a negative way: Why don't students care about this?  Why do they wait until the last minute?  Why won't they get off their phones?  And there are definitely so many reasons to discuss and improve intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, learning targets, assessment practices for us as educators, and so on.

But one thing I've also been trying lately in my classes is to re-frame how I speak with students who aren't "on task."  Instead of walking around and saying "get to work" and "why aren't you working," I'm asking them, "What can I do to help you be successful?" or sometimes "Under what conditions can I help you demonstrate what you are able to do?"  I remember our principal using a similar question once in terms of working with staff, and I thought, this may work with students as well--not all the time, of course.  Sometimes students just need to get to work. 

However, sometimes we need to change the conditions under which they are working to make them more successful.  That could mean letting them sit outside the classroom door or on the floor.  That could mean letting them put headphones in to take away distractions--or whatever best fits your students, your environment, and your subject.  Additionally, this re-phrasing makes the conversation less antagonistic, which can help to alleviate any tension or frustration.  Students may be more willing to say they don't understand something or need a handout they are missing if we aren't coming off as aggressive and frustrated.  I have found this with my group of seniors and our most recent essay.

In the end the outcome may be the same no matter how we phrase it, but I've found some more unwilling students actually open up and say what they need to work on--again, not always, and not all students--but perhaps more than I would have in the past.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Student Voice: Models of Student Work

By Mark Heintz

I have been going around school stopping students at random to hear what they feel teacher's do that impacts their learning.  It is so important to continually ask the population we serve to get their feedback on what helps them master the content and skills we are trying to teach.  The responses have been so insightful into what works for each of the unique learners that enter our classroom and can continue to drive the methods we use to instruct them.  Once I captured the student's voice, I tracked down the teacher to share and get their input on the practice that was highlighted. 

The student I asked in the video highlights the way Mr. Asmussen uses different levels of student samples to improve students writing ability. 


Here is Mr. Asmussen explaining the impact and process of using student samples in his instruction.