Pre-Assessment for Differentiation

Students enter each class with a broad range of knowledge. Let’s say that today in class you’re going to discuss recycling and its importance. There will be a significant number of students that have heard about recycling in school previously or have chatted about it with their parents. Some, if not most, will have experience with recycling for themselves firsthand. Of course, there will also be others that haven’t encountered recycling before and will need extra help and instruction with the material before they’re ready to move on. So how do we differentiate to get everyone on the same page and ready to learn new material to gain a more in depth understanding of the topic? Pre-assessment.

Assessing your students’ knowledge prior to jumping in helps in a lot of different ways. It shows us:

  • What students already know
  • What they need additional help with
  • How we can delve deeper

In the lesson I am planning to teach to my fourth graders – a unit on the environment. This unit strives to ensure that language plays an important role in identifying global environmental issues as well as promoting sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. To reach this goals, lessons will be geared around the following big ideas (more specific big ideas are included within each lesson):

  1. Research through inquiry
  2. Generate information from different sources
  3. Note-Taking
  4. Organization of Ideas
  5. Opinions on topics
  6. Points of view
  7. Supporting Information for Opinions
  8. Collaboration with peers
  9. Relevant information

Some of these objectives directly overlap with what students were meant to learn in Phase 1 and Phase 2. More specifically, most students that have been studying with the IB standards will already be familiar with researching through inquiry.

Step 1: Pre-Assessment

Though I am unable to share the interactive quiz link here, I would ask students to complete this pre-assessment quiz on the environment that I have scanned at attached. The quiz includes vocabulary questions where students need to match definitions. Grammatical questions, a reading on the environment where students will respond to short answer questions and a short essay section.  . This would help me determine which students are already at or beyond the proficiency level expected of them in Phase 3, which need a little bit of a refresher by working with it on their own, and which need some additional help from me, the teacher.

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Step 2: Differentiate in Groups

After the pre-assessment quiz which is given to all students I would review the results immediately and sort the students into three groups. Group 1 – the students who answered the most including the most difficult of the pre assessment questions correctly. Group 2 – students who have some knowledge about the topic as shown in the score but need to develop higher order thinking skills. Group 3 – students who appear to have limited knowledge about the topic. The activities would range from more challenging activities for the students in Group 1 where they get the opportunity to test their knowledge. Group 2 students would be given some topics they need to review again to see what they did not perform well on from their pre assessment.  Group 3 students would have to have a refresher of the topics and be taken through the lesson again to figure out what they did not understand or do not know. I have included a chart that gives a more clear description.

Step 3: Learn Together

Following these strategies, I would work with the class together to gain a deeper understanding of the grammatical, vocabulary, and reading content through the lessons focused on student centered learning through extra workbooks we provide that are created by a collaborative group of teachers. Pictures below are some examples.

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High Stakes Assessments

The topic of high stakes testing has been an issue in countries around the world, and especially so in the United States over the last decade or so. The intention of introducing more high stakes testing into schools in the United States was to ensure that no student was ‘left behind’ and bring up the overall scores to compete with other countries such as China; but the results are in:  most Americans believe the emphasis on standardized tests has actually worsened education in the U.S.

Over the past four years I have been working as a middle school teacher in China. Students in at that age don’t necessarily take many high stakes tests in Middle School. I think the  highest stake test they have taken from year 6 to 8 were the KET, PET, and FCE examinations. These tests include multiple choice timed tests, oral assessments, and written essays. Every year we stray from our taught curriculum to teach the test to the students a month before the examination date. The Cambridge English: Preliminary demonstrates language proficiency at Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It is an intermediate level qualification and is designed to show that a successful candidate has the ability to use English language skills to deal with everyday written and spoken communications. Learners can use this qualification for education or work purposes, as well as to progress to higher level English language qualifications such as Cambridge English: First (FCE) for Schools. Many higher education institutions around the world accept and use Cambridge English: Preliminary as an indication of English language proficiency.

A more important test that is reserved for high school students and is extremely high stakes is the GaoKao. This test pretty much entirely determines each student’s academic and professional future.  Admission to colleges in China is based solely on the results of this test. Wealthy, highly motivated students spend hours each day for up to four years prepping for the test. High school curriculum in China are focused entirely on supporting kids to do well on the gaokao, to the exclusion of virtually all other learning objectives. The testing process is strongly biased towards students whose families can afford to pay for private test prep. Even though it’s a few years away for my students it’s known from age eleven that in order to have a successful educational career you must pass that gaokao.

In my middle school, our high stakes testing is primarily to test the teachers and their ability to teach. Therefore, it motivates the teachers to teach to the test and to endlessly drill the students to ensure they perform well. And to think, of the comparison when I was in middle school the only thing I had to worry about in  was forgetting my combination lock. I can only imagine how much more intense the pressure must be as soon as they reach grade nine.

As can be seen in the PISA scores from 2012, Shanghai scored highest on the math, reading, and science tests. From what I have seen in China, I am not necessarily surprised by these results because Chinese teachers are infamous for teaching to the test, as well as the fact that Chinese students spend long and grueling hours at school, often followed by weekend and evening tutoring. Often times, Chinese students are much less involved in extra-curricular activities, which are arguably a very important part of development.

Now, let’s turn to the high stakes testing that has been implemented in the U.S. due to the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’. I’ve spoken to many friends who are teachers in the U.S. about their opinions of NCLB and they unanimously agree that having that many standardized tests every year is detrimental to student creativity and time spent learning through hands-on experiences. My close friend is a teacher in Michigan, and stated to me: “Many teachers feel as though teaching information from the standardized tests is their primary objective. The children are basically learning how to take multiple choice tests, not how to apply the information in real life.”

This sentiment can be repeated throughout opinion pieces and reports regarding the effectiveness of NCLB. Sarah Holmes states, “Many believe that because there is such great pressure for students to receive a certain score or show the amount of growth required that curriculum has become too narrow and focusing only on getting through the test and less on real learning (2009).” Many teachers object to standardized testing because they believe it is in an inaccurate way to measure students knowledge based on different learning styles and doesn’t test in a variety of ways. “Employing standardized achievement tests to ascertain educational quality is like measuring temperature with a tablespoon,” James Popham says in regards to the effectiveness of testing knowledge through standardized tests.

Another issue with the frequent use of standardized high stakes testing is that the tests take up such a large portion of the learning time throughout the year. According to Anya Kamanetz, standardized tests and test prep takes up 40-50% of the year, especially in high testing years such as 11th grade (2014). The NCLB Act was implemented in 2002, and since then, 48% of Americans believe that NCLB has made education in America worse than before (Huffington Post, 2014).

“The potential problem with the current increased emphasis on testing is not necessarily the test, per se, but the instances when tests have unintended and potentially negative consequences for individual students, groups of students, or the educational system more broadly.” -American Psychological Association

In conclusion, the high stakes testing that can be seen in the United States, as well as countries around the world such as China, may be deemed ‘necessary’ but is not without serious consequences. The most concerning of which is that teaching is no longer about authentic experiences, but about a child’s ability to fill in a multiple choice bubble.

 Sources: 

American Psychological Association (N/A) “Appropriate Use of High-Stakes Testing in Our Nation’s Schools”. Retrieved September 18, 2016.  http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/brochures/testing.aspx

Holmes, Sarah (2009). “Standardized Testing and the No Child Left Behind Act: A Failing Attempt at Reform”. Retrieved September 18, 2016.  http://www.ecu.edu/cs-lib/reference/instruction/upload/Sarah_Holmes_First_Place.pdf

Huffington Post (2012). No Child Left Behind Worsened Education, 48 Percent Of Americans ‘Very Familiar’ With The Law. Retrieved September 18, 2016.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/no-child-left-behind-wors_n_1819877.html

Kamanetz, Anya. (2014) “Testing: How Much Is Too Much?” nprED. Retrieved September 18, 2016.   http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/11/17/362339421/testing-how-much-is-too-much

Popham, James. (2002). “Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Educational Quality” Retrieved September 18, 2016.  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar99/vol56/num06/Why-Standardized-Tests-Don’t-Measure-Educational-Quality.aspx

Planning Assessments

For the unit “Our World” and the topic on Environment I will be assessing my students on several objectives, and making sure they up hold to the IB Standard “The MYP emphasizes the importance of research to build and present knowledge through its emphasis on inquiry.” In this lesson students will have to research to build and present their knowledge through the basis of inquiry. They will need to answer the question of what factors negatively impact the environment. Students will gather evaluate, analyze and integrate information from a variety of sources. They will also provide their own ideas or opinions that are supported by facts or details, organize their research and their opinions through note-taking in order to present their conceptual learning with their peers. Finally present their knowledge of their topic through practiced communication and collaboration with their peers.

I am going to focus on the measurable objectives to be addressed and the formative assessment tasks I will be using to assess their knowledge.

  1. Research & Note Taking – Find information on the negative impacts on the environment. Think of solutions to solve these problems. Compile all information in your notes.
  2. Share your research and solutions with your group members. Discuss your solutions with your group and collaborate to determine which solutions are achievable or plausible.
  3. Transfer your research and solutions to written form. Use a blank template to write a short essay.

In order to achieve the objective listed above, I will use  different kinds of formative /summative assessments to critique their knowledge of the subject.

Assessment #1: Formative

The teacher will walk around and note on pre-made sheet if the students have chosen at least 3 negative impacts and provided examples. They also need to use their research to help them come up with solutions that may help the environment. Students will have to decipher what information is most useful and how to organize it in note taking form. All that is being assessed at this moment are their facts from the research they have conducted. Student’s solutions will be assessed by their peers later on.

 Assessment #2: Formative

The teacher will walk around and listen for which groups are collaborating and communicating well, as well as presenting their solutions and making sound arguments for which solutions are achievable or plausible.  Students will receive participation points and will be recorded on how well they communicate with their peers and collaborate on making changes to their solutions.

 Assessment #3: Formative

To prepare students for the final project the teacher will give students a blank template for the students to write a short essay on their research and solutions. The teacher will be looking for any changes or improvements to the solutions they first proposed from communicating with their classmates on the most achievable ones. Students will be assessed in IB Standards on Criteria D: Using language in spoken/written form. Since it’s a formative assessment I will give students a mark from A to D where I would usually give them an 8 depending on how well they performed each strand.

These three assessments will help me decide if I need to revisit the topic to ensure they have met the objective or if I can continue on with further inquiry into the unit.

Understanding and Applying Standards: Reflection

We have completed three assignments for this module on lesson planning. We effectively learned how to do backwards mapping, unpack a standard, and create SMART objectives.  These three assignments have been helpful as to having a deeper understanding of how I can implement these during planning sessions and successfully in the classroom.

The first assignment was unpacking a standard. I went through the standards in the IB Programme Standards and Practices document to find standards that correlated well with my current unit and my personal aims. However, I will admit, I think using IB standards for this assignment was much less specific than it would have been if I was using state standards, such as Common Core. IB writes standards for schools all over the world, and they are for general age groups (Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme, Diploma Programme) instead of specific grades. However, despite the non-specific points of the standards I chose, I found this exercise to be helpful in breaking down the big ideas of the standard. Instead of just reading the standard and taking away the general idea, it helps to pin-point the specifics.

The second assignment of this week was backwards mapping where you write the areas you want the students to be proficient in, the assessments, and planned activities before you start the unit. At my school, we do something very similar as backwards mapping, where a small group writes a unit planner in the weeks before a new unit begins. If we know the objectives of our unit, the specific activities, and the way we plan to assess the students throughout the unit before we begin, it keeps our lessons focused. However, IB encourages teachers to keep the possibility of flexibility in the event that students want to further pursue an interest instead of going on to a different topic. I do believe if you write the objectives prior to beginning a unit it helps to keep you incredibly focused on the goals, but you should maintain a bit of flexibility.

The last assignment of the week was writing 5 SMART objectives. Writing these objectives were very beneficial to me because, while I have already been writing objectives in my lesson plans, I used very similar action words every week in my plans. Using the ‘EFFECTIVE USE OF PERFORMANCE OBJECTIVES FOR LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT’ paper, I was able to get great ideas for writing better objectives.

I found all of these exercises to be helpful in guiding me to write better and stronger lesson plans in the future and making sure I have structure in the classroom.  More importantly, it is a good reminder that my lessons should not just be fun and engaging lessons, but also have meaningful ways of assessing their knowledge.

SOURCES:

University of New Mexico School of Medicine. EFFECTIVE USE OF PERFORMANCE OBJECTIVES FOR LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT. Teacher & Educational Development; 2005. PDF. Retrieved Aug, 2016 .<http://ccoe.rbhs.rutgers.edu/forms/EffectiveUseofLearningObjectives.pdf&gt;

 

Standards and Backwards Mapping

Last year my students studied a unit on the Environment. The unit was such a success that we will continue to use it for the new semester. The unit is called ‘One World” it comprises of three topics; Conservation, Wildlife and the Environment. This unit is tailored for Grade 7 to 8 students who have a Phase 3 (highest level is Phase 4) proficiency in the English language.

Throughout this unit, I will be applying IB standards to make sure I am following the correct practices and my students are reaching the desired outcomes.  “An IB education is an education for the whole person, providing a well-rounded experience anchored by values and outcomes described in the IB learner profile. IB learners strive to become inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. These at – tributes of internationally minded people represent a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond intellectual development and academic success.” (Connecting IB to the Core. 2013) In order to highlight these values, I have chosen the following IB standards to focus on throughout this unit.

“The MYP emphasizes the importance of research to build and present knowledge through its emphasis on inquiry.” (Connecting IB to the Core, 2013)

 Students are required to demonstrate the ability to use a variety of media to organize and communicate their factual and conceptual learning.”(Connecting IB to the Core, 2013)

In order to achieve these standards, I will need to plan out my lessons using a scope and sequence that includes an emphasis on research, organization, and demonstrating conceptual learning.

At the end of this unit, the students will be proficient in these areas:

  1. Research to build and present knowledge through its emphasis on inquiry.
    1. Gather, evaluate, analyze and integrate information from a variety of sources.
  2. Use text-based evidence to support analysis and interpretation of literary works.
  3. Apply their research skills to a self-selected topic: Informative Poster on protecting wildlife.
  4. Present their knowledge of their topic through practiced communication and collaboration with their peers.
  5. Use a variety of media to organize and communicate their factual and conceptual learning.
  6. Collaboration, communication and information literacy.

 

These activities will help ensure the students are achieving the goals of the standard

  1. Learn how to conduct research. Read articles on negative impacts on the environment and provide factual evidence as well as their own perspectives to provide solutions. Students will be provided with articles on negative impacts on the environment. They will record the information they find that includes reasons and examples. Students will then use their research to help them come up with solutions that may help the environment. Students will have to decipher what information is most useful and how to organize it.
  2. Present their research with their peers and have a discussion about the solutions they would provide. Students will present their research on negative impacts on the environment only presenting a few facts. Then the class will listen to each student’s solutions for these impacts and provide their own solutions and discuss if these solutions are achievable or plausible.

 

By using these assessments, I will be able to determine if students are meeting the standard:

  1. Conducting Research on Wildlife & Conservation. To prepare for our final project I will assess the student’s ability to conduct clear and concise research and how well they organize their information for an informative poster. Students will research wild habitats and wildlife that are threatened. They will collaborate and summarize key issues that affect their habitat or animals. Then they will create an action list of steps people could take to reduce or reverse the problem.
  2. Written Opinion Piece on their Solutions. Students can transfer their research and ideas and opinions on solutions in written form. I will assess the students ability to transfer their ideas to paper and how clearly they explain the content they have studied.
  3. Informative Poster on Wildlife and Conservation.At the end of the unit students will need to create and informative poster using all of the research they have compiled and present it to their classmates. Students will share the issue and suggest action steps. Students will create a poster advertising the issues and suggested action steps. The poster should be colorful, creative, informative, and include an attractive slogan. This project will assess their ability to conduct research, how well they organize it, group collaboration, and their communicative presentation skills. Students will be marked using a rubric that focuses the criteria of “Communicating in response to spoken and/or written and/or visual text”. They will be given a mark out of 8 if they have:
  • responded appropriately to spoken, written and visual text in a range of familiar and some unfamiliar situations
  • interacted in rehearsed and unrehearsed exchanges on a limited variety of aspects within familiar and some unfamiliar situations
  • expressed ideas and feelings, and communicated information in familiar and some unfamiliar situations
  • communicated with a sense of audience and purpose.

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Using backwards mapping, I can ensure that my objectives for each class, as well as my activities and assessments, all correlate to the IB standard I am focusing on for this unit.

Sources:

“Connecting IB to the Core.” IB Common Core and the Standards. International Baccalaureate Organization 2013. Retrieved from Web Aug. 2016. <http://www.ibo.org/globalassets/digital-tookit/country-specific-materials/common-core-ela-en.pdf&gt;.

National Geographic. “Human Footprint.” Human Footprint (2008): 1-9. 2008. Retrieved from Web Aug. 2016 <http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/14/g68/HumanFootprint.pdf&gt;.

Applying Classroom Rules and Procedures

In The Art and Science of Teaching Marzano shows that both positive and negative consequences have a strong effect on student behavior, but the greatest effect can be achieved through a combination of the two (2007). If we treat our new classes with all stick and no carrot, however, we risk alienating students and creating a cold and uncooperative class environment. Thus it is essential to formulate a strategy for applying classroom rules and procedures that is clear and balanced; early and consistent application of rules and procedures will best ensure adherence to behavioral expectations.

In secondary education there is a vast difference in student behaviors and suitable strategies between grades six and twelve. What works with a fresh group of sixth-graders may not chime with a difficult eighth-grade class, you can even have two identical grades showcased in “Tough Young Teachers” expecting the same reality but in return receive something completely opposite. Behavioral standards also differ from school to school, with students’ backgrounds and parental expectations playing a huge role in the class climate. Individual school policy can also affect the strategies for behavioral management that we choose to use, for example if there is a school-wide token economy or time-out zones for misbehaving students.

For the purposes of this assignment I will plan for my Eighth Grade English class at a private international school. I will assume that the students come from middle- to high-income families with a moderate level of parental involvement. In this kind of environment behavioral standards may be higher than in schools in disadvantaged areas, although one should not underestimate the factors of privilege and entitlement that can contribute towards complacency and low effort among some students. And, without question, an eighth grade class in any school will have its fair share of  misbehavior.

First, I will examine positive reinforcement, which in Marzano’s data has a greater effect size than punishment (2007). I believe this tells us something useful about positive and negative consequences: as teachers, we should be positive first and foremost, and negative only in response to non-adherence to and procedures. One of our primary goals is establishing a climate of care and concern, and this can best be achieved with a positive tone in our verbal and physical communication.

It is my belief that as students grow older, they should be encouraged more and more to meet high behavioral and academic standards for their intrinsic value, rather than for extrinsic rewards and punishments. Perhaps the best way to achieve this goal is through positive reinforcement, which can provide clear and constant reminders that adherence to rules and procedures is acknowledged and appreciated. When applying positive (or negative) reinforcement it is important to focus on behavior rather than innate qualities or characteristics. A useful strategy for positive reinforcement is “precise praise” from Teach Like a Champion (Lemov, 2010). In this strategy we distinguish between acknowledgement for students meeting our expectations and praise when our expectations are exceeded.

 

Precise praise is a quick and positive form of recognition that does not emphasize extrinsic rewards for good classroom behavior. Rewards will still have a place in my eighth grade class, but will focus more on academic efforts: merits will be awarded for exceeding expectations in a given task or assignment. In order to easily keep track of this reward system, I will use an online tool like We Chat – A Chinese app that hold many similarities to What’s App but with this tool I can post documents, mini videos of classroom discussions, and I have a group that consists of students and parents so everyone; especially the parents, can see their child’s progress in real time. This tool allows for quick and convenient positive feedback, with a feature for messaging parents to highlight behavior or effort worthy of praise. It is important to remember that a message sent to parents via an app like We Chat should not replace more proactive uses of home contingency such as emails and phone calls home; rather it should supplement those other forms of communication that we use on a regular basis.

I will use this point system to reward exceptional effort and behavior each midterm. The school may have a system for rewarding high achievements; in my secondary school students who received the most merits won a book voucher, which was presented at a special assembly to which parents were invited. This seems to me like an ideal format for tangible recognition, as it acknowledges high achievement without parading the “best students” in front of the rest of the class.

Below is a diagram of steps I will take to reinforce positive behavior in class

Diagram 1
Diagram 1

 

Next, I will discuss my strategies for correcting misbehavior with negative consequences. As stated above, I see negative consequences as secondary to positive reinforcement, and there are a few strategies that can be used before resorting to stricter disciplinary measures, namely: withitness, redirection, and “positive framing” (Lemov, 2010). Withitness refers to a teacher’s ability to be aware of what is happening in the classroom at all times and to notice the warning signs of disruption before disruptive behavior occurs. As a negative consequence withitness is a quick and subtle intervention that can involve proximity, eye contact, deliberate pauses, and other cues. It is a preventative measure that can be seen in the most successful classrooms, where triggers for disruptive behavior are averted before the disruption can happen (Lemoy, 2010).

Redirection is a technique that goes hand in hand with withitness. The cues listed above that the with-it teacher employs can all have the effect of redirecting a distracted student back on track. Cues for redirection can have significant benefits over more dramatic interventions, in that they cause minimal disruption to the flow of a lesson and maintain a calm and focused learning environment. Redirecting cues can be particularly useful when dealing with students with special needs who have trouble staying on task. A student with ADHD may have limited control over their disruptive behaviors, leading to frequent breaking of class rules and procedures.

Positive framing is a technique illustrated by Lemov (2010) that draws on what’s known in psychology as the “framing effect.” One of the implications of the framing effect is that humans are more likely to choose an option that is worded positively than one which is worded negatively (Framing effect, n.d.). Lemov describes positive framing as, “narrating the world you want your students to see even while you are relentlessly improving it, making corrections consistently and positively” ( Lemov 2010, p. 43). The key element to notice here is that the positive tone is used specifically to make corrections. Positivity should not obscure the correctional message, but rather frame it in a way that is more attractive to students than anger, sternness, or sarcasm.

Negative consequences for misbehavior will take place where withitness and redirecting cues have failed to avert a disruption. I will use positive framing to inform the student(s) of my expectations for acceptable behavior and tell them clearly and calmly that they’re on a first warning. I will record the names of students on a first warning on my own seating chart. If a student violates class after their first warning, they will be calmly notified that it is a second infraction, with a consequence of a lunchtime detention. In cases where misbehavior continues or escalates quickly to an unacceptable level (perhaps skipping the warning stages), a student will be sent outside or to a school time-out zone. In such instances additional consequences will be incurred alongside detention: meeting with a senior member of staff, speaking to parents, etc.

Schools often have specific systems in place for negative consequences. A necessary consequence for repeated misbehavior is a behavior intervention plan (BIP) that seeks to address a student’s individual needs. BIPs should involve a strong element of home contingency and are necessary to avoid a stalemate where the same pattern of misbehavior repeats indefinitely, causing frequent disruptions to the class.

Below is a diagram on the steps I would take for negative consequences in class.

Diagram 2 (3)
Diagram 2

Sources

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Lemov, D. (2010). Teach like a champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Framing effect (psychology). (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2016, fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology)

 

Creating High Performance Learning Environments

In a world with increasing amounts of technology and distractions for students, we need to up our game as teachers. We have to figure out ways to keep their attention while making sure that they learn the knowledge necessary to keep up with the world around them. Below I will analyze three videos that illustrate different teaching styles that attempt to address the skills that students need in order to develop.

 Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action

In each of the video clips the students were really engaged in the activity and demonstrated their complete understanding of Physics. This video represented the proper level of expectations for both academics and behavior as well as the norm and procedures that were put in place by the teacher. It was very refreshing to see how well the classroom operated especially with the difficulty level of the activities that involved high levels of thinking and transferring their skills to more hands on approaches. In each of the video sections, all students were completely engaged with the activity as well as one another.

Throughout the students’ discussions on potential and kinetic energy, they also consistently used 21st century skills to achieve their overall goal: create a roller coaster. Students collaborated as a team and let their skills determine what role they would play. They all worked together to problem solve the best strategies to create the roller coaster that they were working to build. Students also used ICT and Technology to help in creating their roller coasters and in creating a series of videos to film their final outcome.

The norms and procedures that were in place in this class were evident through the way the students addressed one another, spoke to the teacher, and stayed focused throughout their roller coaster lessons. At all times, students spoke about what they were aiming to accomplish and how they were planning to accomplish goals using terminology specific to the lesson, which leads me to believe that one of the teacher’s norms includes discussing a topic using terminology appropriate for the lesson.

3rd Grade Chinese–Math Class

It’s tricky to address the academic expectations in this video. The teacher uses engaging call and response techniques – especially inclusive of actions and singing – that clearly captures the students’ attention.

However, from the naked eye, it doesn’t seem that much precedence is being put on their independent thought. It appears that the majority of the math skills represented here are learned through rote memorization. After reading, Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good?, there seems to be a lot of pressure put on Chinese students specifically for the academic achievements in math (2014).

Though the students are learning mathematics through song, to me it seems that the focus is too heavily placed on math and memorizing facts. Students aren’t actually engaging with the content beyond repeating what is being said. There is something to say for it though, as Chinese students’ math scores blow American student’s math scores out of the water (Bidwell 2013). I think we would have to delve deeper into their instruction to know what is working for Chinese students. From this video and the article, it seems that pressure is the biggest element.

 Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics

felt that this video addressed behavior expectations more thoroughly than academic. The teacher is consistently using call and response, and action and response techniques to engage students. When delving deeper into this idea of pedagogy, the teacher is attempting to stimulate different areas of the brain – specifically the hippo campus, the motor cortex, the frontal cortex – by gaining each student’s attention first through call and – response, then engaging the students’ motor cortex’s through motions and gestures.

By addressing all of these different elements of the brain while teaching content, the teacher attempts to associate feelings and motion to achieve deeper understanding. The argument is that words and concepts are associated with these feelings and leads to a better knowledge of what each different concept or word mean. We can see this in practice in Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics, where students are chanting along page numbers, what they are meant to discuss on each page, as well as the speed reading techniques that are also accompanied by gestures.

 Summary

In my sixth to eighth grade classes, I hope to take different elements from the Physics and Whole Brain Teaching videos. I would much more like to incorporate the strategies used in the Roller Coaster Physics video. Students were able to have fun and take part in gaining knowledge through an activity that was interesting and informative.  For whole brain teaching completing activities while moving around and accessing different layers of the brain is an excellent way to get students out of their seats, having fun, and moving or dancing around.

 

Sources

Bidwell, A. (2013, December 3). American Students Fall in International Academic Tests, Chinese Lead the Pack. US News and World Report. Retrieved July 19, 2016 from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/12/03/american-students-fall-in-international-academic-tests-chinese-lead-the-pack

Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education. (2014) Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from July 19, 2016 fromhttp://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/PDA%20Critical%20Practices_0.pdf

Positive Classroom Climate

If you want to establish a positive classroom climate, there are several actions that you should take immediately in order to ensure a simultaneous sense of order and community among your students. When I begin the school year, I try to make the students feel welcome to their new classroom, but also emphasize respect for their teacher and classmates and the differences among us.

In an effort to make my students feel welcome and comfortable, I use these practices:

Personalizing the Classroom: I have decorations in my classroom that the students have chosen and help to design. I have different walls tailored to different aspects of the students learning. There’s a word wall, super star wall, word board, and student work area.

Individualized Teaching: While it can sometimes be difficult to do with quite a number of students, I try to have an individualized approach to teaching. Some students prefer to do mechanical center activities. Some like to work in pairs while others like to work individually.

Emotional Neutrality: If a teacher fails to practice emotional neutrality, there will be students who feel unwelcome and unhappy about being in that class. It is the responsibility of the teacher to not play favorites and never demonstrate distaste for students.

An Environment of Inclusion: The teacher should make sure students of all different shapes, sizes, and color feel included in the classroom and not discriminated against. This can be done through anti-bias education. Allow me to further elaborate my own personal experience and situation in my classroom.

I am the only non-Chinese person in my classroom as all of my co-teachers and students are homogeneous in nationality and race, so bias within my classroom is fairly limited in terms of cultural differences; however, as I’ve noticed throughout my experience with Chinese nationals, their lack of exposure to diversity often leads to unintentional racism. Therefore, I think it is important to address diversity and how to practice cultural sensitivity at a young age.

While contemplating the issue of anti-bias teaching, I have referred to Teaching Tolerance’s article titled “Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education.” Some main points of how to address anti-bias education in the classroom include:

Cultural Sensitivity:
Since most students in my classroom grow up with limited exposure to people with other cultural background, it’s important to incorporate lessons about different cultures and address differences in gender, race, religion, and nationality into our lessons.

Listening: The students should feel that their comments, contributions, and opinions are valued by their teachers and peers. The teachers and students should demonstrate active listening skills, such as nodding.

Bullying Prevention: . First, you could have workshops and lessons about bullying, the damage it can do to peers, and awareness of differences between students. Second, you could emphasize the protocol for reporting bullying to the teacher. Third, you could have the students do role play where the students act as both the bully and the bullied.

All of these techniques can go a long way in making students feel more comfortable in the class. As I’ve discovered, the class will run much smoother if you emphasize classroom norms and procedures from the very beginning of the year. The classroom should be a place of inclusion, fun, and learning and it is the role of the teacher to implement these characteristics.

SOURCES

Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education. (2014) Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from July 2, 2016 from
http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/PDA%20Critical%20Practices_0.pdf

 

 

Mobile Learning

Knowing and understanding my students use of mobile devices in certain situations helps me know how I can implement daily mobile learning in my classroom. All of my students have mobile devices (either laptops or IPads) with internet access. They use these devices for at least one hour every evening after school and a lot more frequently on the weekends. Many of them chat with a friend or family member regularly using a messenger app (like WeChat) or play games.

Our school as always has issue with how to manage and control the use of mobile devices on campus. Being a boarding school students are not allowed to have mobile devices on their person when they are in their dormitories. Students must leave their IPads or Laptops with their homeroom teacher in a designated safe. Mobile phones are not permitted any time on campus and there are strict rules and consequences when students manage to sneak them on the grounds.

As for Innovative Teaching Practices and Technology only a handful of teachers (which happens to be foreign teachers) know how to use technology in the classroom. In many cases their mobile devices are being misused by students because teachers are not carefully monitoring them. This leads to the argument of are mobile devices really useful in the classroom. Using mobile devices in the classroom properly can be done but you need to address some guiding principles for it to be successful.

  •         How much time will it take to integrate technology into this lesson? How much time can I set aside to introduce the activity and the technology needed? Is this time well spent?
  •         Have I used the app I’m planning to use with my class before? Have I spent enough time fooling around with the app myself? Have the students used it before? Do I need to give a tutorial?
  •         Have I made my plan for phone use clear? Was I specific in planning out how the students will use their phone? Is there room for creative use in a different way if a student knows of a different program/app to use? Have I clearly defined my expectations?
  •         Have I assigned project leaders? Have I chosen students to be the experts of this app so I have more helping hands walking around to ensure the project goes well?
  •         How is a mobile device enhancing the lesson? Is it a means to achieve the learning objective? Am I using the phone to promote 21st century skills?

Here are some explanations of why, and how, I would implement mobile devices into the classroom:

Collaboration. Another great way to integrate devices into the classroom is using chat programs to get discussion flowing and questions answered. A teacher could have live threads for questions as a way for students to post their questions without disrupting the flow of the class. If another student knows the answer, they could post it and share their knowledge with the rest of the class. There are also those really engaging topics that students just don’t want to stop talking about. If they have a forum to continue discussing online. It allows for students to engage more thoroughly with the topic and they could continue discussions into the evening hours if they choose.

Student Based Research. Alternatively, some of the questions that students have are simply understanding a word or needing a visual aid to help reference what a teacher is discussing in class. This is a great way to start getting learners to research their own questions online quickly and efficiently. For example, when teaching students about Future Architecture and the Venus project, my students were really intrigued and wanted to look up the creator of the Venus Project. They found all of this information on the founder of the project and its benefits.

Photos and Videos. Using basic photo and video apps to create engaging presentations, documenting things they see, collaborating with another to make an interesting project, are all easy and simple ways to see the future of mobile devices in the classroom. These types of projects also leave room for student innovation. They can pick their own apps that they know how to use well to create projects independently or with their peers.

We can see all of the benefits mobile devices can contribute to a lesson. We know that our students use them every day and it’s high time that we harness their capabilities as a use for learning. They will need their mobile devices in order to develop 21st century skills that they will need in the workforce later on, so we should start using them as early as possible.

Sources

Hardison, J. (2013, January 07). 44 Smart Ways to Use iPADS in Class (Part 1) – Getting Smart by @JohnHardison1 -. Retrieved February 02, 2016,from

http://gettingsmart.com/2013/01/part-1-44-smart-ways-to-use-smartphones-in-class/

Sinha, R. (2013, May 15). Integrating Mobile Technology into the Classroom. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/330-mobile-technology-in-classroom