TL Standard 3

TL Standard 3 Reflection

After learning about what an action research project looked like, I had a vision of what I wanted to do. I wanted to see several changes in my classroom but I didn’t know which to focus on first. In chapter 3 of The Action Research Guidebook: A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams, Sagor states, “When people are unsure of their destinations, they tend to take wrong turns, extend their trips with unnecessary detours, and potentially end up where they hadn’t intended to go” (Sagor, 31). I decided to pick what I felt would be the most beneficial for my students. I wanted to see higher levels of engagement and retention in all subject areas but I soon realized that was much too large for an action research project. I needed to narrow down my project to one subject area to test my hypothesis and plan. Once I completed this action research project I could try and apply the things that worked into other subject areas to hopefully see an improvement in those areas as well. In the text Sagor mentions, “Whatever approach you decide to use, it is imperative to stop before proceeding any farther to ask yourself of your team, ‘Is this topic really worth an investment of my or our precious time and energy?’” (Sagor, 29). This really stuck with me and actually changed my topic of research. He made it very clear that your topic must be meaningful to you, something you are passionate about. If it isn’t something you are passionate about, it will become like a chore for you to do.

The text states, “Creating a time and space for private thought is the primary virtue of the reflective writing process” (Sagor, 13). Journaling in my classroom each day before and after school is something that I really enjoy. This led me into bringing the reflective journal into my action research project. It was a great way to track and make notes about my whole class, individual students and note what was working as well as what wasn’t working each day.

I feel that reading the Sagor text really helped shape and set my action research project up in a successful way. The additional literature I did at the beginning of my project also really helped narrow down the focus my plan. The literature that I found all had similarities to what engaged learners look like and gave several examples at how you as a teacher could give your students a hook and allow them to express themselves showing individuality. My research also discussed the importance of closures in lessons to help recollection of content. Some of the sources had wonderful examples for older grades but I struggled finding examples that were applicable for my age group.

This action research project helped change my practice in my classroom. During completion of this action research project, I created several data collection papers and materials that helped me track progress for my students. They have helped shape the upcoming material and it has reiterated just how important closure is for every lesson. It is easy to get wrapped up in their work time and lose track of time and just throw out the wrap up/debrief session. I was able to continue this action research project to start a new school year and have seen my students make great gains.

Not only did I learn how to conduct an action research project in my classroom, I also learned how to apply research and critique primary and secondary sources. Before taking these courses, I could not tell you what the difference between basic research, applied research and action research. I also could not specify the difference between a primary and secondary source, not to mention be able to analyze and critique an article effectively! Ruth Ravid’s book, Practical Statistics for Educators does a nice job breaking down and explaining the multiple avenues within different types of research. Ravid states, “The focus of most textbooks on action research in education is on qualitative research. Nonetheless, teachers, administrators, and other educational professions need to understand quantitative research, to interpret test scores, to participate in data-driven decision making, and to be educated consumers of educational research” (Ravid, xv). As seen in my Article Critique I was taught to take a piece of research and dive deep into critiquing the purpose and design of the research as well as looking to the sampling procedures, variables, reliability and validity, analysis conclusions and limitations of that article. Learning how to not only find primary and secondary sources but also how to critique them is a skill I can immediately implement into the research done by my grade level team when looking for research to support curriculum and practices we use. I also learned how to complete a data analysis. As seen in my Data Analysis , I learned how to read data provided in a table and analyze its meaning. We focused on finding the mean, standard deviation, kurtosis and skewness of the data and what that means when looking at a research study. It is easy and fairly common for researchers to change data to make it represent and say what they want it to. I now have the foundation for knowing how to analyze data that is given to me in a research article. These skills can help me determine if the study and research is sound or not. This was a large take away for me because it is so easy to believe that the data you read about in research and popular books and journal articles are feeding you true information when in fact the research several of these articles and books are not sound or supported by primary resources or may have been altered. I was asked to critique the article Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Outside of School published by Reading Research Quarterly, a very well-known and respectable journal. I was amazed at how little the data supported the claims they made within the article. The authors manipulated the data to represent and prove their hypothesis to be correct. Learning the fine details that make a source reliable and credible is an invaluable skill to have which I can now confidently say I obtain.

Citations:

C. Anderson, R., T. Wilson, P., & G. Fielding, L. (1988). Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Outside of School. International Reading Association, 23(3), 285-303. From http://www.jstor.org/stable/748043

Chapell, M., Blanding, Z., Silverstein, M., Takahashi, M., Newman, B., Gubi, A., & McCann, N. (2005). Test Anxiety And Academic Performance In Undergraduate And Graduate Students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 268-274.

Ravid, R. (2011). Practical statistics for educators (4th ed.). Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.

Sagor, R. (2011). The action research guidebook: A four-stage process for educators and school teams. (2nd ed., pp. 1-31). Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

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EDU6524 Curriculum Design Meta-Reflection

Meta-reflection

 

Standard: Evaluate and use effective curriculum design.

EDU6524 Curriculum Design’s purpose is to help educators get a more sound understanding behind curricular goals and objectives. It allows teachers to take a close look at the relationships between theoretical and practical models and how to assess curriculum and common practice. It also takes it one step further and helps lay the groundwork on how to design and implement a carefully planned unit of study. This class does an amazing job at covering the standard: evaluate and use effective curriculum design. The two texts that we read for this course was Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The challenging part of this course was to learn how to rewire my thinking when it came to unit planning. Both texts pushed me to not only learn how to take a backwards approach, but also required me to step outside of my comfort zone and discuss and implement components that students in our classrooms with need in order to be successful in the fast pace, technology driven world that we live in. A lot needs to change in our education system.

In order to look back and reflect on our educational system, we need to debunk the pros and cons. What has worked, what needs to be changed? The first few chapters of Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, really forced me to look at and reflect on not only my own teaching practice but the last several decades of the education as a whole. Within the first few pages on the book, it discusses how we often get stuck in our ways of doing things. Jacobs states, “In fact, schools were not designed for children. Rather, they reflected the factory model of organization resulting from the ascension of industry and economic expansion between 1897 and 1921, which ultimately was applied to education as well as business (Feldman, 1999). With roughly 180 instructional days based on an agrarian calendar and a six hour day with eight subjects, the standardization took hold. It still holds children, teachers, and communities in a fierce grip.” (Jacobs, 9). Before taking this class for the most part, I just followed the curriculum that was required for me to teach and stuck close to the curricular map. When lessons were added in to supplement, I don’t feel that my team and I always designed lessons with the end goals in mind. We knew what standard we wanted to hit, but we didn’t plan or really establish all of the necessary pieces in order for the lesson or unit to be best effective. Through the readings in this class, I will go back to my team more knowledgeable about the importance of backwards design. In chapter 2 of Curriculum 21, it discusses how to upgrade the curriculum and Jacobs breaks it down into five steps of how to do so. What I loved the most about this chapter was how it perfectly connected to other texts that we read for our Standard-Based Assessments class. Jacobs states, “My experience is that starting with assessment types is a strong and provocative move because it forces educators to confront the very work assignments that are required of our learners” (Jacobs, 20). Doing this while redesigning and supplementing curriculum, we are taking the steps to essentially upgrade curriculum by trying a different approach than what we are used to doing.

In my past 4 years of teaching I have been very hesitant when it came to using technology in my classroom with my students. I feel as though I am getting “stuck in my ways” even though I am only in my first 5 years of teaching. It is hard to admit your weaknesses or when you are uncomfortable teaching particular subject areas. For me, my weakness is technology. I plan to implement a lot more technology in my classroom in the years to come. I will be trying out and exploring using technology to help present my lessons as well as having my students access and use different types of technology. I feel the proper use of technology in my classroom could really help capture those select few students that always seem to be dazing off. Jacobs stated, “Teachers who are comfortable with and trained in media literacy will find students who are more engaged. Additionally, students who are media literate are better able to resist messages deemed biased, harmful or inappropriate” (Jacobs, 145). I am hoping that by furthering and strengthening my comfort levels with technology, I will become more capable at obtaining my students full attention for a longer duration of time. I look forward to taking more professional development courses around technology that will help educate me further in ways to incorporate it with my students.

Another big takeaway for me came from Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in regards to my curriculum and unit planning. This text does a wonderful job breaking down and investigating the purpose of the design within out units and lessons. The backwards design model is “beginning with the end in mind” (Wiggins and McTighe, 18) What I think my team and school could do better at is truly analyzing curriculum and taking a closer looking at where we need to supplement to meet the needs of our students. During this course I was able to do just that. In my curriculum analysis, I discussed a new literacy curriculum that my district adopted. Teachers all over the district are concerned that it is not sufficient.

After learning how to effectively analyze a curriculum, and through my research and readings I felt I was better able to understand the importance and effectiveness of the backwards design model to help write a Unit Plan. Wiggins and McTighe discuss the three stages the backwards design model as identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence and plan learning experiences and instruction. By beginning with the end in mind we have a clear picture of where we want our students to get. From there, we are able to determine what types of instructional strategies will help our students meet the learning target(s) within the unit. It is important to focus on what standards we will be assessing and what we want our students to create. Throughout this course it was made very clear how important it is for students to not just be able to state what the learning targets are, but to understand them. How will you as a teacher know your students have learned, understood and met their learning target? “Understanding is revealed in performance. “Understanding is revealed as transferability of core ideas, knowledge, and skill, on challenging tasks in a variety of contexts. Thus, assessment for understanding must be grounded in authentic performance-based tasks” (Wiggins and McTighe, 153) One way I will monitor my student’s understanding is through self-assessments and reflection during mini conferences during writer’s workshop. Their self-assessments and tracking sheet are directly connected to the daily learning targets. Students will be writing the daily target and how they feel they did in meeting that target and what they did to show they understand. The mini-conferences that my students will have with me allows me to assess lesson plan pacing as well as student progress in meeting the desired target.

As I finish this course, I feel that I am walking away with a great deal of new knowledge regarding best practices in curriculum design. I look forward to being able to apply my new learning in the upcoming school year. I also look forward to bringing a lot more knowledge to the table with my teammates during our PLC work time in how we can better improve our curriculum and help supplement and fulfil the needs for our students.

 

 

References:

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2010. Print.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by Design. Pearson. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

EDTC 6433: Final Reflection

I am happy to say that I am leaving this class feeling like I have learned a lot and also feeling like technology is not nearly as intimidating as I made it out to be. Walking into this class in the beginning of the quarter I have to admit that I was nervous, and intimidated. Yes, I feel that I am pretty tech savvy with the items that I use outside of my classroom, but when it came time to implement technology into my classroom, I didn’t know where to start. During the first class session we spoke about our final projects we would create and we touched on the types of work we would do in this tech class. We also took a NETS self-assessment to see what areas we could use improvement.  After leaving class the first day I have to a say that I was pretty skeptical. Reading over the NETS and taking that self-assessment truly felt like I was trying to (and not succeeding) read a different language. The self-assessment showed me that I truly had a lot of room for growth in all areas. I teach kindergarten, I have 22 five year olds who are just learning the letters of the alphabet and learning how to read and write. My original outlook was, what in the world could I possibly take from this class and make applicable in my room? “These projects and NETS don’t really apply to me”. I am proud to say, that I was so very wrong! Whether I am teaching 5 year olds or 75 year olds, teaching technology is possible and very doable at any age! My overall technology goal was to focus on NETS-S 2: Communication and Collaboration and NETS-T 1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. I would improve technology integration in my classroom by using Haiku as a space to allow my students to share their animal research projects in June. Students would use our classroom Haiku page to demonstrate their research and use of PebbleGo and a voice recording system to create their project. Although this project won’t be completed until May/June of 2014, I feel I was effective in setting my students up for success on this project. I have spent a lot of time teaching my students about the basics of using netbooks. I have worked hard teaching my students how to log on, how to navigate to their sites, how to adjust volume, use headphones and how to log off. I have also done a lot of preloading with my students on how to research using graphic organizers and using the basics of PebbleGo. I have learned so much about how to introduce somewhat complicated technology skills so early in the year with kindergarteners. My biggest learning and takeaway from this class is twofold. One is how many technology tools and resources can be modified and used with my kindergarteners in class. The second biggest takeaway is the capability of my kindergarteners using technology, especially so early in the year. With enough practice and careful teaching my students were able to meet extremely high expectations that I set!

During this class, I learned about several different programs that have been extremely useful and helpful in my classroom! A part of this course that I greatly enjoyed was the fact that majority of the programs we got to learn about and use in class are all able to be scaled down to use at different grade levels.  I also feel that I am leaving with wonderful resources and tools for my future years of teaching. Not only did I find new programs and technologies that I am able to use with my students, I learned about new technologies that will benefit me in my journey with SPU for my graduate degree! I already used one 2 of the programs I have learned about in my projects and presentations for finals this quarter! I look forward to seeing how I can continue to use these programs with my class this year and in the future as well!

Something I always need to remember is how important technology is and how it allows for creativity in my classroom. Student choice is so important. It allows for students to be more engaged and take ownership in their learning, and technology really aids student choice. Technology has really opened the door and alleviated stress for the kiddos in my room who struggle with fine motor and writing skills. It has allow for my students who rarely participate in conversation and give me a large sigh when it is time to get work done,  to be excited to pull out the netbooks or recording system to get started on their work! Technology is supporting students with many different avenues to access information and support learning! I will definitely be continuing the use of technology in my classroom!

EDU 6655 Is Theater the Answer?

While reading chapter 14 of Brain Matters, Wolfe does a wonderful job recapping the main takeaways from her book. While reading over the importance of using appropriate rehearsal strategies and providing many opportunities for students to revisit information over time on page 222, I was able to connect a phenomenal new resource I received during our staff LEAP time.

Our staff was lucky enough to have a training session from BTiC: Bringing Theater into the Classroom. It is a program that teaches you ways to integrate drama into your entire curriculum. They give activities, and ice breakers to help start your year off. With those activities, comes a set up for grouping our students that you are able to pull from for the rest of the year. Looking back into chapter 11, Wolfe states, “We learn some things by experiencing them concretely, others symbolically, and still others in abstract terms (Wolfe 166).” What I loved about BTiC is this program provides methods of learning that research has proved to be most effective. During this mini workshop, we learned a lot about tableaus and how effective they can be in all subject areas and used for many purposes. This immediately excited me and got me eager to apply my new learning into my classroom. I already had an idea of where and exactly how I wanted to test out using tableaus.

In my classroom during reading workshop, the curriculum is focusing hard on oral retelling of the highlighted story from the curriculum. We are provided with a hardcopy version of this story, the story is available online, and we are given blank picture cards for students to “fill in the blank” of the story. However, no matter how many times we listen to the story (me reading the book, played online or using the blank cards) my students are still having a difficult time with going back and recreating the story in the correct order. I went back into my classroom after the workshop and immediately introduced tableaus to my students. Rather than having my whole class attempt to retell the entire story together, I divided the story out into 4 sections and grouped my students into 4 groups. Each group was given a section of the story and they had to work together to create a tableau to show the most important piece of their section of the story. Each group then watched the others mini productions! We had a quick discussion about each tableau and why they chose the stances, and gestures they chose. After this activity, we sat back down and debriefed the whole lesson. The next day I came back and revisited this same story and asked them to retell the story. The outcome was phenomenal. Every single student was able to correctly retell the story in the correct order and they were actually able to pull even more information from the story after that activity than they were able to before.

All of the reading and research from Jossey, Wolfe and the fabulous online readings that we have been able to discover have really come to life in my classroom with how students learn best. I can’t wait to continue using tableaus and theater in my classroom!

Bringing theater into the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.seattlerep.org/Programs/Education/BTIC/Default

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.221-223). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Mnemonics Saved the Day

Growing up, I always had a difficult time studying for tests. There was always so much information that I needed to retain but I struggled keeping the information organized and straight in my mind. I always seemed to struggle until the day I started using mnemonics. In chapter 13 of Brain Matters Wolfe states, “many teachers view mnemonics as mere memorization or ‘memory tricks’ (Wolfe 208).” They say that mnemonics are unrespectable because they don’t enhance deep and meaningful understanding. As an educator, I could not disagree more. I was able to be successful in elementary school, middle school, high school and college because of the help from mnemonics. It is a great tool to  aid memory and the ability to recite information.

Wolf spends a great deal of time reciting many of the categories of mnemonics. Two categories that I was able to connect with the most is acrostic sentences, as well as acronyms. The two are very similar to one another. The difference is acrostic sentences are always sayings in a sentence form whereas acronyms are using just a single word.  Many of us have probably learned several of these as young children and still to this day are able to recite these silly sentences or words. Examples are how many days are in each month “30 days has September, April, June and November..” ,  learning the notes of the line on the treble clef by learning the sentence “Every good boy does fine” . A popular acronym that I still use to this day to help me remember how to properly use the words affect vs. effect is RAVEN.  “Remember affect (is a) verb, effect (is a) noun (Wolfe 210).”

“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (Wolfe 211).” Using what seems to be just a silly sentence during reading workshop to help students remember a very important rule while reading, truly works. In chapter 15 of Jossey Bass Reader, it talks about the differences between literate and illiterate students. One intriguing difference was when they looked into reciting nonsense words. “The illiterate people tended to turn these into real words (Blakemore 240).” Teaching kindergarten, I still have several students who are not reading yet. Illiterate students, struggle retaining the information and research shows that they are actually using a different part of their brains when attempting to read words. They use the part of the brain responsible for problem solving.

After looking deeper into this new learning, I am curious to see how helpful it could be using mnemonics more frequently with my illiterate students. I look forward to learning more creative ways to distribute information for my illiterate students to recall it better/faster, as well as strengthen my literate student’s skills. Could this change, decrease or eliminate (in some areas) the problem with students using the wrong part of their brain while trying to read? Even if it couldn’t solve the problem, I am curious to see the growth with those illiterate students in using mnemonics. As teachers we can teach students about how their memories work and give them the tools they need in order to recall and pull from that stored information.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.200-217). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Blakemore, S. J., Frith, U. (2007). The JOSSEY-BASS READER on the Brain and Learning (p. 101). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

EDU 6655 What Would I Change?

There are many things that we as educators would change about our schools if we had the money and/or power to.  Ask a teacher to close their eyes and pretend that money and power were not an issue. For them to write down ideas of what a perfect school would look like and see what you get. Every teacher has their dream of what that would look like, and it would be pages upon pages of changes, some more feasible than others.  There is, however one major change that I would like to see implemented in schools all over the country. I would like to see more exercise built into our students’ school day.

“Research from Harvard University has shown that exercise plays a critical role in brain functioning (Wolfe-Early Brain Development 6).” Many researchers have concluded that exercise is an important part of a child’s day. In chapter 7 of Brain Matters, Wolfe discusses how school districts are decreasing the time spent in subjects like art, music and physical education to spend more time on core subjects such as math, reading and writing in hopes to raise students standardized test scores. However, after looking into research concerning the effects of exercise on brain function it suggests that this practice may be counterproductive to the results they are looking for (Wolfe 93). Wolfe goes on later in the chapter explaining a study that was done proved that the more physical tests students passed, the higher they scored on the achievement test. Exercise not only enhances learning, it affects emotional and physical well-being as well because when you exercise your body produces endorphins (Scheve).”

I was pleased to read in John Medina’s Brain Rules that “kids pay better attention to their subjects when they’ve been active. Kids are also less likely to be disruptive in terms of their classroom behavior when they’re active (Medina 2008)”. Not only are they less disruptive but they “feel better about themselves, have higher self-esteem, less depression, less anxiety. All of those things can impair academic performance and attentiveness (Medina 2008)”. Science and my readings have proved that exercise is a vital part of education and learning. Taking the time each day in my class to do our Get Fit- Count to 100s song, stretching, doing breathing exercises, and having them do children’s yoga are all benefiting the learning of my students. It has been a great way to get the blood flow and oxygen to their brain to help get them ready to learn. I have really noticed a difference in their level of engagement after such activities. In my perfect world, districts would stop eliminating our student’s time in important activities that help the success rate of our students. I would also have blocks of time set for exercise in the classrooms totally to about an hour of fun movements and exercises. There could even be a before school program where students could come and do Pilates, yoga, zumba, jogging or any other type of exercise to get their brains awake and ready to learn before the day begins! This would not only aid learning and engagement, but it would also help solve our national obesity issue that our country is undergoing.

Resources:

Medina, J. (2008). Exercise. Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school (pp. 14-18). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Scheve, T. (n.d.). Is there a link between exercise and happiness?. Retrieved from http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/exercise-happiness2.htm

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.93-97). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Wolfe, P. (2013). Early Brain Development. A position paper for the 9th Bridge Early Childhood Program in Las Vegas.