Posts Tagged 'Strategy'

Teachers as Producers, Not Consumers, at Faculty Meetings

Many teachers  consider  faculty or department meetings a waste  of time. They often complain that a memo could have given the critical information, that a person talked to long about nothing, or that they had better things to do that would  help their students. An administrator can transform meetings so that teachers move from being passive consumers to active producers.

Instead of having someone talk about ways to improve student learning, have the teachers group together by subject area and go to a designated room.  Each subject area group can think of the students’ major learning blocks in their curriculum and have the team suggest specific strategies that students can use to overcome those blocks.  The principal, curriculum leader, librarian,  or technology integration specialist would have set up a private  subject area curriculum wiki such as pbworks (pbworks.com) for this group.  Someone  in the group will word process in the wiki each learning block and the strategies that the teacher suggests.  For example, a teacher may identify that students often have trouble in finding evidence to support a position such as in a Social Studies Document Based Question (DBQ) in which students have to find references from historical documents to prove a certain statement. A teacher may offer that she has students identify the key word in the original statement in a red highlighter and then has students highlight in red that word or any synonym each time it appears in the document. Usually the highlighted words become the key to the students finding sentence that provides the necessary evidence.   If any  teacher has a video, website, podcast, etc that he/she uses, he/she  can give that link to the recorder.  The recorder lists the learning block and all the strategies that directly help students overcome that block.   At the end of the faculty meeting, the teachers end up  with a large variety of strategies that can help students as  they encounter difficulties in their learning.

Furthermore, the teachers can check the subject area wiki anytime to remind themselves of the new strategies that their students can use. The teachers can add more as they counter additional learning blocks and figure out effective strategies to help their students.  The  wiki becomes a living document that offers teachers useful student learning strategies.

Tuttle’s formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

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Close but Not Really Formative Feedback

Example A:

At the end of each class, a teacher has her students  do a cumulative task on their whiteboards. She looks over the whiteboards and then gives the whole class the  feedback  of a repeating the rule she has already said.

Formative Assessment or Not:   She does diagnose each student’s answer in a formative manner.  However, she directs her feedback to the class and not an individual.  She does not give a new strategy but only gives the same general rule such as  “remember the order” that she has previously used in class. If the students do have the answer wrong, they probably do not understand the general rule so repeating that rule does not help the students.  Saying a rule  louder or more often does not help students who do not understand the rule.

Example B:

During the class, a teacher has her students do a task on their mini-whiteboards. She looks over their answers and quickly regroups students.  Each group has a specific task to do.  Some do enrichment, some have formative feedback for their overcoming a specific gap, and others meet with the teacher for more in-depth help in overcoming the gap.  Each student gets the appropriate feedback so he/she can overcome the learning gap and move forward.

Example B shows formative assessment in action.

My new book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

What Did I Learn From Giving the Final? What do I Do Differently?

I recently gave my Spanish final. After correcting each part, I put the grades for each part onto the final sheet and totaled up the score to get their final exam score.  However, the process for me was far from done. I then opened a spreadsheet, created a column for each category of the test and a column of student names.  I then entered the students’ grades for each part of the final and had the computer calculated the class average and the percent of that average out of a perfect score such as (class average of 22.4 out of a perfect score of 25 for a 90%).  I found out that   my students achieved a class average of  85% for speaking, 90% for listening, 76% for reading,  and 77% for culture, and a 62% for writing.  I instantly thought of  what I could do differently next semester to help the students do better. I focused in on their writing which was their lowest score.  I have decided that each week that they will write at least five sentences. I will correct their sentences more frequently (at least once a week). I realized that I have to help them understand the critical difference between the preterite and the imperfect tense since most students mixed up the two tenses in the each tense specific writing on the final.   I also thought of several strategies to improve their reading such as writing more questions for them to answer about the book “conversations”; have them practice answering questions words in class so that they are sure of the type answer. For example, the Spanish question word,  Donde,  has to be answered with a place; and have them find similar words in the question and the answer.  My goal is to increase each  of these two lowest scores so that they both are in the 85% for the next time.   I realize that I have to give my students different strategies than I gave this semester’s students. I will give formative assessments frequently to measure their growth. I look forward to the challenge and their success.

So what does your final tell you about the different strategies you might need to give your students of next year?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Opening Students’ Minds in Formative Assessment

I had the good fortune to present a full day  formative assessment workshop to a great group of teachers on Friday. They listened, asked questions and created their own formative assessment materials.

During the workshop, I stressed that after we have presented the information and students demonstrate that they do not “get it”, we need to either drastically paraphrase the information or give an entirely different strategy for learning it.  During the workshop, I used several metaphors

Students have a one channel TV.  Although they have the option of many different stations, they stick to one only. When they do not get any reception on that one channel, they do not switch to another way. We have the responsibility to show them how to use the other stations so that they can move forward in their formative assessment.

Students get stuck in a rut when they cannot understand what we present. That rut prevents them from moving forward. We have to help them get out of the rut by providing them with a new strategy for understanding the learning goal. That formative assessment strategy enables them to start back on their learning.

Some quotes about a closed mind or looking at a problem in only one way.

“If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”

“Our first problem is not to learn but to unlearn, to clear out some of the old assumptions (ways of thinking and doing).” G. Steinem

“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”  V Hill

“Half of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.”

“It is not a disgrace to start over, it is usually an opportunity.”

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” F Zappa

“A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood”  Chinese Proverb

“A closed mind is a good thing to lose.”

How do you open your students’ minds so that they can learn the critical learning goals in your subject?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Fixed or Flexible Learning

I recently talked to someone who teaches an online course.  She says that the college has supplied the lectures for each class.  I questioned how a college could think that the fixed lectures would fit the needs of the class. Then the person reminded me that high school textbooks,  textbook websites, textbook DVDs,  textbook PowerPointsand content websites present the material  in a fixed manner.  I think it is good for a teacher to see an exemplary lesson and then to modify the lesson for the class or  for the teacher to use the fixed  lesson as a jumping off point  but I do feel that teachers should not follow a book lesson blindly. Based on our students’  intellectual, physical and emotional needs, we, as instructional leaders, need to decide how to teach the selected goal.  We need to modify the lesson to meet various learning styles and learning levels in our class. We need to know when to abandon a lesson to teach a missing skill or a complimentary skill. We are the ones to show the students the connections between what they are learning and the big picture, to bring in our life experiences in that learning.

How do you teach your course?  Do you strictly follow the textbook (fixed) or do you modify the learning in a flexible manner based on your students’ needs?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

New Learning If Have Options

My wife just purchased an all-in-one printer-fax-copier.  The machines lists eight special features. However, next to six of the eight features, there is a comment such as  “Optional hardware/service needed to utilize this feature.”

I wonder how often we give instruction to students but we have not included the optional features.  As I talk and survey students more about their writing, I find out that my assumption that the students  already know “how to” or that they remember “how to” are not true.  The wonderful lesson of two days ago has not been internalized so that they do not use the new technique; they revert back to the learning gap.  Likewise, they face a new writing pattern and they suddenly disregard all the good writing structures they used previously.  Finally, they encounter a writing topic that engages them so much that they forget the writing pattern completely.  All subject areas have optional features.

As I break the writing process more into thinking units and have the students practice these ways of thinking, I find that optional features need to become part of  the standard writing process. I have to be prepared to help the students negotiate their thinking so that they use these features.  They have to internalize the formative writing process so that they can produce high quality work at any time and in any condition such as in an in-class writing essay.

How do you build in the options for success for your students?

Learning from a Young Child

I was watching my 4 year old nephew and niece (twins) as they were playing, watching tv, drawing and having fun.  My niece drew scribbles and then told me a story about the scribbles.  Her parents obviously read to them. She did  sentences such as   “The cow goes to the party.  The horse goes to the party.  The dog goes to the party. They have fun.”

I thought of how much her parents read to her and of how interesting the story was that she wanted to hear it over and over again. Her parents have encouraged her to tell stories.

I wonder how we present interesting material to our students so that they want to pay attention to it, how we present the same information in different ways to them , how we expect them to learn big skills, and how we encourage them to tell us their learning stories.

Or do we read to them our book that does not interest them and only expect them to remember obscure details from the story instead of achieving big skills?

Modeling Think Alouds with Emovie

How do we model the thinking for students so that they learn how to think in our subject area? We can do think-alouds in which we think aloud “When I.., I..”  or “What if ….” .However, if we do an in-class think-aloud then our students have nothing to refer to do as they work at home. What if we do an emovie of our think-aloud where they hear and see our thinking? We can show how we complete a graphic organizer or draw a model of something.  We could put the think-aloud up on Youtube, Teachertube, or our district server. Students can view our think-aloud so that they can develop the same thinking process. They will begin to think in a scientific fashion, a language arts fashion, a mathematical fashion, etc.

How to make Wikis and Blogs Collective Intelligence

THE magazine has an article on 6 technologies that will impact education in very near future. The writer used the term collective intelligence to refer to Wikis and Blogs. I agree that wikis and blogs are collective. Are they intelligent? Ithink that depends on how the teachers have their students use these tools. As a comparision, are all classroom discussions intelligent ones in which students grow academically from the discussion or is it a an exchange of opinions?

Here’s two things we can do to improve the intelligence of the wikis or blogs.

When students do add to a wiki to build a collective body of information, how do they use the information once they have created it? For example, if students find articles on different article on the same topic (immigration), summarize the articles, and post to a wiki, we simply have a collection of articles. What do we have the students do that uses that collection? Do they compare/contrast the articles? Do they search for the bias in each article? Do they create their own article that incorporates an in-depth view of the pros and cons of the issue?

When students post their ideas to a blog or even twitter about the ideas, how do students grow from each other’s comments? Are the students’ comments ones that challenge ideas, ask probing questions about it, give another view(perspective) of it, show connections, provide alternative explanations, or explain how to do it? How do their comments move them along the learning path?


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