Sunday, February 18, 2018

Trying something new- individualized learning

Last year my teammate and I combined our classes together to get ready for writing STAAR. Our librarian, ESL support teacher, and reading interventionist, we pulled small groups based on our student data. Students rotated in groups to different stations when they weren't meeting with us. It worked out great. Students were meeting in small groups 3 times in 1 day...way more than I could ever do on my own. There were some issues--students weren't all that engaged in the activities we planned when they weren't with us. If I wanted them to play a grammar game, they ended up clicking onto something else & didn't get the extra practice like I hoped. The time was well-spent and I think students definitely benefitted from it.

Fast forward to this year. Last week we decided to try this again, but we made it more individualized. After our PSTAAR Writing, my teammate and I gave them goal setting sheet so they would know what types of questions they missed. The results of the PSTAAR weren't stellar, so many students were upset. I explained they needed to know what they knew and didn't know. This wasn't information for just me. I felt like they needed to take ownership of their own learning.

 We once again combined our classes into our "Pathways Room"...which was just a larger learning space with some flexible seating options. Students would be given an "Independent Choice Board" that had a variety of activities for them to complete.  They would be tracking their mastery of each writing TEK. They would take mastery connect checkpoints so they would know what they mastered. I used itslearning to create a review/refresher for them. The planning on the back end is and thinking through the logistics of how the students would keep track of the Mastery Connect codes was tedious and at times overwhelming. Our thought process was when they didn't reach mastery the first time, they would practice the skill again then take check point #2. 

My reflections after our first session:

  • Students were definitely much more engaged than last year.
  • We met with every single 4th grader twice during our LA block. 
  • Students loved working with others outside our class.
  • I need to go back and tweak my Independent Choice Board 
  • I need to make using the Mastery Connect easier for students. They were confused over when they should take check point 2.
  • Creating direct links in itslearning to the Mastery Connect didn't work. Fortunately, I discovered this the night before. I quickly made my Mastery Connect code sheet.
  • Some students were asked by my principal.Questions students were asked by my principal: What are you working on? Why are you working on it? How you know to work on this? How you know you understand it? What do you do next? Do you go to all the stations or some? 8 out of 10 students were able to answer all these questions. I'll take that as progress!
Grammar TEKS tracking sheet

Students working in a small group


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Desmos Assessments

I've been working with 1:1 Chromebooks for a couple of years and have been experimenting with diverse ways of assessing. This year I've done a lot with Desmos Activity Builder:

Monday, February 12, 2018

TCEA 2018

2/12/18 Just returned from a few days at TCEA Convention. There were so many things going on. Lots of people are checking out Flipgrid and Adobe Spark for use in their classrooms. I personally love Adobe Spark for learning journals! I was fortunate enough to present on Affordable Adobe (in other words free!) at the conference. If you are interested, here is a link to my wiki that houses the files and PowerPoint.

Affordable Adobe

Sunday, February 11, 2018

No clever title. Just a reflection about students, novelty + a bonus AHA!

 It has been liberating and exciting to free students to work on individualized playlist. Now that we are in to the second semester of using itsLearning I have had a few aha moments.
  • The Awesome: Two of the best perks of itsLearning is that students can work at their own pace AND through an individualized playlist that meets their cognitive needs.
  • The But: The novelty of working through a playlist wears off. Another novelty that wears off is free seating while working through a list. "Free seating" once considered an incentive to students slowly became an expectation and invitation to off task talking and less work being done.
  • The Solution: First to combat the talking and off task behavior I assigned the students good old fashioned assigned seats. Second, my partner and I reframed a playlist to be a "game" that we named Level Up Biology. The game consisted of three levels- each level had an activity and quiz to check for understanding. Once students passed the quiz they were granted access to the next level. Each level increasingly got harder and incorporated more skills required by the TEK. At the end of the lesson cycle students got to place a sticker on the "level" that they made it to.
    Its amazing what students will do when they see Super Mario dabbing!
Our itsLearning Dashboard from Pupil View

The AhaI really, really, REALLY have to be cognizant of maintaining relationships with students. Students need feedback, big and small. A warm up grade or stamp on a page in their journal goes a long way. They need frequent verbal/nonverbal contact. As awesome as the playlist is- it is nothing without its counterpart of contact with students in small groups and having conversations with them about their progress and learning.
Action plan/ideas
I need to get better at incorporating conferencing with students about their learning. Students currently are data tracking throughout our units and after major tests but it needs to be taken up a level. Maybe students will get more out of quick one-on-one conversations that requires students to reflect ion past performance and also discuss their upcoming learning goals and interests. This would be a good time and place to incorporate the proficiency scales as conversation pieces with students..
HOLY MOLY WOW. I just had the biggest epiphany. It's so simple and I am almost embarrassed to continue writing this... *Face palm* 

Why haven't we been using the proficiency scales to assist in building and planning of playlists?!?! It makes so much sense! The district has already explicitly determined levels of proficiency that also aligns to a sequence of learning targets for each standard. DUH. DUH. Duh!

Brb. My mind just spontaneously combusted.

Keeping Up!

How to keep up with the latest and greatest is an ongoing dilemma.  Whether it is the latest news, the latest app, or the latest classroom technology, I often feel like I am constantly behind in the race.  First, I would like to offer some insight regarding this dilemma and then second, I would like to share with you one way that I use technology to help me save time for what is important and also to keep up with the latest.

From a big picture standpoint, I think it would be beneficial to remind myself that this is not a race.  The analogy is wrong on so many levels, but especially as I look at the goal of reaching every child, I often need to stop right in the moment that I am running so hard and literally drop out of the race.  I need to take the time to live intentionally with my student, or sometimes my colleague, and to realize that the goal of education is for us to learn.  Sometimes we are learning content, but sometimes we are learning what it means to live in relationship with each other.  This last part will never be on a test but it is the most important thing, is it not? 

So now for the second part...and I love the way this lets me use technology to keep up with "philosophical musings".  I use to keep abreast of news, blog posts and web links that I use most often.  Here is what the site looks like:

But the great thing about ustart is the ability to personalize it.  

So as a reminder for why we do the hard work that we do, a quote from Angela Stockman and Ellen Feig Gray, "Designing compassionate classrooms is wholehearted, messy, and very human work.  There are no quick solutions, bulletproof packages, or lift and drop programs that help people become closer and kinder to one another.  In our experience, this kind of growth is the result of greater thinking. Design thinking."

I can't wait to read their next blog post on my ustart page!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Random Acts of Kindness

In the midst of the testing, TELPAS writing and ratings, STAAR prep, PSA testing (oh, and did I  mention more testing?), we officially made February "Random Acts of Kindness" month at Landrum Middle School! 

Landrum's own Teacher of the Year, Coach Louis, stated it best on Twitter when she posted, "Educating the "whole child" means we have to care about more than just their academic success". I couldn't agree more.

Teachers at Landrum (and I'm sure I could speak for all SBISD educators) are not satisfied if our students do not love to come to school and learn everyday. We strive to make sure that LMS is a place where students feel cared for, safe, and appreciated. We are in this together. Landrum is not the same with students missing. We need them to come to school and be active participants in order for us to reach our potential.  I can honestly say, I don't know if ALL of our kiddos know and believe that. It's our job to make sure they do.  

Making sure 100% of our students know and believe this is not an easy task but we have to try. We have to believe it's possible. From now until the rest of the year, LMS Teen Leadership gang hopes to come up with more ways to spread kindness. I couldn't be more proud of our kids. It's all because of them that I know LMS can make a change in our students and within our community. 

To those reading, feel free to join us in spreading kindness in our schools! Use #RandomActsOfKindness and #LionsChooseLove on social media! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018