Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What happens in your classroom the first day of school that makes students run to be there the second day?

By Linda Ashida

What a great question!

This recent tweet by  Alice Keeler reminded me how important it is to consider what we do in our classes on the very first day.  Do we engage our students in such a way that they look forward to returning the next day?

Today on the first day of classes at Elk Grove High School, I realized the Physics team had an answer!

Eleanor Pattie invited me to her Physics class where teams of students were engaged in a problem-solving design activity. Eleanor credits fellow Physics teacher Phil Winter for suggesting the activity. Along with Eleanor and Phil, the other Physics teachers planned to do the same activity as well:  Mary Kemp, Chris Rogers, Tom Boczar and Peter Wang.

Here's what they told their students:  

The Challenge:

Design a free-standing chair using paper and masking tape with at least 4 legs and a back that can hold more books than any other team's chair.


Limited resources
Chair with at least 4 Legs and a back rest
Rise of leg must be at least 1 cm
Chair must hold weight of books for at least 5 seconds

Here's what I saw in Eleanor's class:

The Process:

Teams brainstormed and asked each other a lot of questions to decide how to best tackle the challenge with their limited supply of paper and tape. They came up with very different ideas and began testing them out. They tinkered, assessed and revised their ideas to decide on the best plan.


After trying out a few ideas, they began building.

After the chair building was complete, they began stacking the books, and assessing the integrity of the structure. Would it work?

Feeling confident, another group began stacking. Six books and preparing for more.

Time passed. More books.  Another group wondered. . .  28 books?!! Would it hold for five seconds? Oh the suspense!

Would it hold even more?!!!! 30 books?!!! The team steadied them for another five-second test.

Could they be outdone by another group?!

11 books . . . then three more . . .

23 books and counting!  But wait, those extra big books count for two!  That's 56!!!

The Result:

 Bravo!  The winning group of the day with 69 books atop their paper chair!!!!!!

From the very first day the students were thinking like physicists. The design challenge with constraints was a a problem solving activity that got them working in groups, asking questions, posing solutions, testing hypothesis and reflecting on their results.

All of that, and they had fun, too. I'm guessing they'll will be looking forward to going back to class tomorrow!

A shout out to the physics team for sharing their ideas, and Eleanor for inviting us in!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Growth Mindset with Assessments

By Mark Heintz

The AP World exam just transpired and I am in full reflection mode.  I asked my students a few questions about things they felt they needed based on the test they just took.  The students felt they needed more writing practice throughout the year.  They felt they needed more individual practice with feedback on their ability to perform on the spot.  To give some context on the test, the exam has four components. Part one is fifty-five stimulus multiple choice questions. Part two is four short responses.  Part three is one document based question (DBQ). Part four is one long essay exam.  While AP does give a course framework, the students do not know the prompts or documents ahead of time.

To adequeately gather enough assessment data for each component, it takes a lot of class time.  To prepare the students for each component and give feedback along the way so students feel success, it takes a lot of class time.  Despite the enormous use of classtime, I feel they are one of the best elements of the class because they require the students to think. Since they take a lot of class time, I have often taught small elements of the essays in the first few units, but never had hard checkpoints or summative assessments for each writing component in each unit.

Based off the student feedback and my feelings on the year, I created an assessment chart to ensure a linear progression of the skills required for each component of the exam.  I wanted to hold myself accountable to formally assessing each part in each unit with the exception of the first unit which is a very short unit.  I did not want to assess the entire essay in the beginning because it would be too difficult and too time consuming.

To give an example of the progression, in the second unit, I will give the students a two document DBQ.  The students will only be required to write a thesis, give contextualization, and connect the two documents to their argument.  This will not require fifty-five minutes like it will at the end of the year.  It only assess three skills, which I can easily provide feedback to the students to help them grow by the next assessment. Each unit I add a skill or documents to progress them towards the final product of seven documents. Unit three adds the synthesis skill.  Unit four moves to four documents.  Unit five adds source component and five documents.  Furthermore, it gives me data on what my students have mastered and need help on at a very early stage in the year.  They do not need to be able to write a DBQ until the middle of May.

I have selected the DBQ's for each unit already and tailored the documents to get at the skills being assessed.  I am hoping that this holds me accountable to ensuring that students are progressing in the skills to be successful.   Furthermore, my hope is that the students will master the skill in smaller doses so I can make them feel comfortable with the exam, hold them to a higher writing standard in the end, and not spend as much class time in the last few weeks leading up the examination.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Read, Speak, Listen and Write - All in one activity!

By Linda Ashida - Inspired by Kirsten Fletcher

First, A shout out to Kirsten Fletcher for emailing the Collab Lab team with an invitation to visit her French classes to see her students engaged in a Running Dictation Relay Race.

Intrigued, we stopped by to find some students wandering around the room reading the walls, other students sitting at their desks seemingly waiting, and small groups of students crowded around one of their desks.

Kirsten explained the "method to the movement" that got all of her students--collaborating in groups of 2 or 3--engaged in using the language in all modes: reading, speaking, listening, and writing.

Step 1) 
One student in the group goes to read one of numerous sentence strips posted around the room. The student reads the sentence as many times as necessary to memorize it.

Step 2)
The student who reads the sentence reports back to the group and recites the sentence from memory to his partner(s) who must listen and write the sentence accurately, exactly as it was written.  If the student who read the sentence forgets any part he can go back,  re-read, then return to help his partner fill in the gaps.

Step 3) 
The students repeat this process with each of the sentence strips around the room, until they have all of the sentences written correctly.

While this activity is great for World Language classes to get students up and moving and using all modes of communication, it could be adapted easily in any language arts classes.  The content of the sentences could be easily modified to adapt to any level of language learners.

The activity could involve varied extensions as well.  For example, sentences from a story could be posted in random order.  Once completely written, the students would have to put them the correct order, building an additional layer of reading comprehension.

Kirsten is thankful--and would like to give credit to--her #langchat colleague Martina Bex for sharing this activity. 

To learn more, read Martina's blog posts:
Running Dictation Relay Race
Running Dictation Extension

Thursday, May 4, 2017

#214EdPrep: Nicole Reflects on Her Experiences

By: Nicole Holubec

Image result for educators rising d214
Thanks to the District 214 Educator Prep Program I’ve gotten to experience so many great things. Ever since I was a little kid I knew I wanted to be a teacher. When I heard about the College Intro to Education course being offered at school I knew I had to join and be apart of it and that was one of the greatest decisions I had ever made because I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet so many new people and make new connections. 

In College Intro to Education I have learned the meaning behind what teaching is and I was able to create my own philosophy of teaching. I also got to take part in an internship which I am still currently in. Three days a week I get to go to Grove Jr. High and student teach. My rotations have been in 6th grade, Language Arts classes. 

I've taught lessons on annotations and have done “A Look Into High School” activity with my students. My annotations lesson is one that I actually have improved on. The first time I went through the lesson it was very simple, taking notes with paper and pen on an overhead projector, but the second time I taught it I changed things up and used technology. I created a Google Slides presentation for the students to take notes from, then a Nearpod activity to practice annotating, followed by a small quiz at the end to check for understanding. 

Besides going out on an internship, this class has given me many opportunities to work with different groups like Estudiantes Unidos, the Future Teachers Club from Devonshire Elementary, and first graders from Salt Creek Elementary. 

By working with these groups I’ve been able to get a first hand look into different ethnic and age groups which makes me more prepared for my future with the students I will have one day. Talking with these groups and hearing other students having the same passion that I do gave me even more motivation to continue in the field of education. 

Some of the greatest opportunities have also come my way thanks to the teachers in the Collab Lab. Ms. Ashida and Ms. Barry have come into my class, also along with Mrs. Miklusak and Mr. Heintz, and showed us different ways of teaching with and without technology and different styles of teaching. 

This collaboration with the Collab Lab led to an opportunity for me to present and take on the role of teaching the teachers at the EdCamp In-Service day at EGHS

Thanks to EdPrep I’ve gotten to grow as a person and as a future educator.

To learn more about the program, and the experiences of other EdPrep students, check out #214EdPrep on Twitter!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Brings New Collaborations

Written by Linda Ashida

In all of the professional learning that the Collab Lab facilitates, we always look for opportunities to expand our collaboration across schools, both in person and virtually, using Periscope, Facetime or Skype, and Google Hangout.

We have written about some of these collaborations in previous posts:

In this post we'll highlight new collaborations we are enjoying this Spring.

April 2017 In-Service Day

Our April In-Service Day gave us the chance to connect with our colleagues at The Academy at Forest View.

The Collab Lab team planned a kind of hybrid EdCamp, giving all staff the opportunity to offer input on their needs and interest several weeks beforehand.  We used the feedback from staff to pre-plan some of the session offerings, and we also gave staff the opportunity to suggest workshops the morning of the In-service day.

Prior to the In-Service day, we got to thinking about the possibility of inviting some of our colleagues from the Academy at Forest View to join us, since, from prior collaborations, we knew that our staff had a shared interest in learning about, and/or sharing our practice, regarding social emotional learning and instructional technologies.

We weren't sure if the logistics would work to bring teachers together from two buildings, but we figured it didn't hurt to try! We thought it would be great, even if just a few of the teachers could join us, and if not in person, via Google Hangout or Periscope.

So, we presented our idea to Kara Kendrick, the Director of The Academy.  Not only was she open to the idea, but after sharing the idea with some of her teacher leaders involved in planning their day, we were able to work out a plan that would allow for the entire staff from the Academy to join us at Elk Grove for the morning EdCamp!

Staff from both schools facilitated sessions, and even student teachers and students joined in and presented too! As always, we documented our learning in each session using Google Docs so that we would all be able to access the notes for future reference, including for sessions we were interested in, but unable to attend.

Feedback from the day was very positive, with some great suggestions for future In-service days.  Almost all of the EG staff who completed our feedback form indicated how great it was to have this opportunity to get to know our colleagues from The Academy, and to learn with and from each other.  We have already discussed plans to continue our collaboration with them during the coming school year!

The visual below gives you a glimpse of some of the sessions.  Check out this link for more details.


Collab Lab Book Chat Series in May

A literacy research project done by our colleague, Katie Winstead, as part of her year-two Mentor Program project, inspired the Collab Lab to partner with Katie to host a book chat series.

We will meet on Tuesday mornings in May from 7:40-8:05 in the Collab Lab and we will read and discuss the book Readicide by Kelly Gallagher.

Each week we will share our key takeaways and questions. We will also reflect on our practice and, looking ahead to the coming school year, plan specific strategies that we can embed in our lessons to improve student literacy.

All EG staff are welcomed to join us, and we have extended the invitation to our colleagues across District 214 as well who will be able to join us via Google Hangout.

Look for future Collab Blog posts with updates on our Book chat series to see what we learn!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Classroom Tools for Engagement

In this previous blog post on a session from our April 3rd Institute Day, Peter King shared some multi-purpose tools for teachers to provide feedback through engaging activities.  Here are some additional tools for the classroom that can be use to increase student engagement.

- Bouncy Balls is a website that monitors the noise levels in the classroom. As the class gets louder, the balls bounce higher. It is a visual reminder for students to keep sound down in the classroom.  You can adjust the sensitivity based on your preference or the activity in class.

- Noisli generates white noise to help students concentrate in class. There are numerous options of noise to choose from including rain, wind, the ocean, etc.

- InstaGrok allows students to research a topic through an interactive web. They search a topic and then general subtopics pop up. Students are then able to explore their topic by watching videos, reading articles, and search images to help them better understand a topic or concept.

- Memegenerator allows you to explore existing memes or create your own. This is especially fun to use with a Quizziz activity!

- Tagul is a teacher-generated word cloud, which you can adjust the shape and color of the image. This could be a great study tool for students or just something fun to decorate your classroom with!

- Mentimeter creates a word cloud from student input, based on a question or topic that the teacher poses. One teacher suggested that this would be a great idea to intro a unit as a KWL. Peter suggested using this also to build relationships by asking "What did you do this weekend?" or "What did you do over Spring Break?"

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.