Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Do You Prioritize?

The standards outnumber the hours in a day and the stamina and energy of many students. The standards serve as guiding principles while good education demands a balanced approach that both engages and empowers students.

The standards continue to be a daunting algorithm for educators, not unlike the life algorithm in today's world - a world infused with seemingly infinite knowledge, choices and possibilities. How do educators navigate this complex arena?

The answer lies in patterns, prioritizing and focus.  It's the way we "walk the road" of schools and life that make the difference.  What are the essential ingredients?  How do you tackle each day?  What processes do you use to create vision, goals and priorities?

I suggest that the you identify the main ingredients of a successful endeavor, classroom, family, life.  Then create a pattern that includes essential ingredients. Be prepared to reflect, revise and revisit the vision, goals, priorities and pattern often.  Have a flexible attitude towards change which is the one aspect of life you can count on.  Seek out others online or in person to guide, support and challenge you on the way.  Make time for play and recreation which spark creativity and joy.

None of us can do it all, or be it all--there's too many things to do and people to be, but we can journey towards our best work and vision in kind and caring ways that bring light and make a positive difference.

Priorities become your pattern, and your pattern leads to your vision.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Classroom Teaching: A Balancing Act

Classroom teaching is a balancing act that requires continual reflection, prioritizing and revision.  It's great when the collaboration and balance work, and it's challenging when it doesn't.

Pacing is paramount--a too fast pace frustrates and hinders progress, while a too-slow pace dulls the process.

Focus is key--kindness, respect and care take center stage.  When that's forgotten, irreparable damage is done.

Coaching is essential--motivation, strategies, honesty and encouragement will move children along.

Teachers work tirelessly each and every day to create a balance that supports all children while meeting school, district, State and Federal guidelines.  It's a mighty task, and we need each other to do it well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Learning: Embrace!

New learning can be frightening especially when it's in your challenge area.  It's easy to point a finger at colleagues when they fear an area of new learning, but it's not so easy to recognize your own area of frightening new learning.  For me, it's the microsphere of instruction--the details related to good pedagogy. I can easily grasp the big picture, the new tech and multi-modal learning, but when it comes to the finer points, that's when I cower.

Hence, when our school system adopted the coaching model, I must say it fueled a waterfall of angst:  What will coaches have to say when they watch me teach and notice all the little details that I miss when it comes to instruction?  I can't be it all?  I know where my weaknesses are?  Do I have the time to finesse every single aspect of my teaching?  

Now, as the coach and I move down the coaching relationship road, I am embracing it step-by-step.  I know it's best for students if we work collaboratively, and I know there's always something to learn.  Hence, I'm slowly learning to navigate this new instructional path.

Today was yet another turning point in the journey.  The coach taught the lesson.  I asked him to teach after watching his last lesson and noticing many, many details of instruction that he implemented to better
students' access and learning.  Again today I noticed more details. Details that I want to better implement to develop my instructional repertoire.

The details of today's instruction included the following:
  • Making Learning Safe: Friendly language and simple examples welcome students into the lesson.
  • Explicit Instruction: Prior knowledge is not assumed.
  • Wait Time:  Students are given the time to think and ponder.
  • Specific Compliments: Model accurate language, strategy, behavior by pointing it out.
  • Humor: Makes the lesson enjoyable.
  • Setting Goals: Students are aware of where the lesson is going and what's expected.
  • Storytelling: Makes the lesson "sticky" by adding an emotional, experiential connection.
  • Blind Vote: Close your eyes, thumbs up if you understand, to the side if you kind-of understand and down if you don't understand.
  • Mapping the Path:  Creating a strategy path with students to complete the task.
I have said it before and I'll say it many times again, teaching is an endless path of discovery and understanding.  No teacher ever reaches the point of all-knowing in education--it's an endless evolution of growth and development to best serve students.  The best reaction is to embrace a path of discovery and evolution that's part of your overall professional work.  As my father always says, "A little for today and a little for tomorrow."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lesson Choreography

Most refer to it as a lesson plan, but it's much more complex than that.  It's not static, passive or unchanging, instead it's dynamic, ever changing and full of momentum.  Lesson intent does not equal lesson employed.  Why?  Because it involves people--thoughtful, active people with voice and response.

Particularly with respect to project base learning and a responsive approach, lesson plans become lesson choreography, and there's much to consider.

The first consideration is flow: the movement from introduction to activity to closure.  John Medina's presentation, Brain Rules for Presenters, suggests a ten-minute introduction as attention begins to drop dramatically after ten-minutes.  That's ten minutes to whet the learners' appetite, deliver instructions and answer questions.

The instruction list must be clearly written. If there's confusion with the "to do" list, the teacher will encounter unnecessary interruptions.  Rushing through that stage hinders the rest of the learning event.

Then there's placement in the classroom (the stage).  Young children do best when they have a good work space that includes distance from other groups, places to sit and work, and materials such as computers, easels, chart paper and more.  It's efficient to assign places, but choice lends itself to investment so that's an area for teachers to determine.

Routines and protocols for checking in are important too.  When and how should you question and check-in?  It might be good protocol to have students "ask three before me" which means ask their classmates before asking a teacher.  That builds collaboration and independence.

The edit process is similarly important.  Who should students edit with and when?  Also, where will the work be stored or showcased?  How will the work today inform future lessons and activities?  Students' closure routines will impact that.

When the lesson is well choreographed, dynamic learning occurs.  When the choreography is sloppy, frustration and missteps hinder potential.

I want to think more about lesson choreography.  After all, like parenting, teaching is a dance--a series of approximations as children reach deeper understanding and skill.

Do you have a better word for this process?  What are the essential steps you employ when designing a learning event?  As I think and analyze lessons more deeply, I look forward to your response.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Visual Literacy: Implications for Math Education

“Research has shown that visual learning theory is especially appropriate to the attainment of mathematics skills.” - Stuart Murphy

Lately I've been excited to learn more about the connections between visual literacy and learning particularly with respect to mathematics.

Again and again this year, I've read, heard and viewed discussions about the power of visual models when learning mathematics:
Then, this week while working on the Know Your Numbers Poster Project with my students, we came to a quandary when discussing factor pairs.  Often factor pairs are presented to elementary school students with a rainbow model:

Yet the rainbow model misrepresents the relative distance between the factors. Is this important? What would a model look like that represents the relative distance.

As we discussed this with greater depth, we realized that the relative distance between factors for all composite numbers takes a similar shape?  Is this important?  

Over the weekend, I considered the models with greater depth, and wondered about the following questions.
  1. Does a number line that only demonstrates factor pairs misrepresent the notion of what a factor pair represents: a number shown as the sum of equal groups?  Or is relative distance an important concept to convey?
  2. Should I give more time and attention in the Number Posters project to exploring visual models by allowing students to play around with the many, many ways a number can be visually represented?
  3. How will math instruction change and evolve given our current knowledge about the power of visual imagery?
  4. Will teachers at every level begin to employ more and more visual models to efficiently and comprehensively relay the meaning of math concepts?
I decided to add more time to the project for visual model making. I played around with it myself so that I could model this activity for students.  This is what I came up with for 12.

I noted while making these models that this activity will strengthen students ability to grasp fractions, area and perimeter when we focus on those concepts.

Where will this exploration take us?  What are your thoughts with respect to integrating visual models into your math lessons?  How much time do you take to allow students to draw and explore math concepts with models?  In what ways will we bolster this aspect of mathematical understanding?

As an elementary school teacher, I am continually evolving my approach to instruction based on the latest research.  I look forward to your links, thoughts and ideas with respect to this investigation.  Thanks for your consideration.

Additional Visual Resources for Math:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Every Day Should Be Like This!

Yesterday was an amazing day!  So many things happened that exemplified the best of what schools have to offer.  It wasn't perfect, but it was close.

The day started early with Edna Sackson's 2011 Global Education Conference presentation from Australia which described a number of motivating, student-centered, engaging global projects.

After that, our responsive math curriculum director stopped by to follow up on a math question.  I asked the question the night before via email, and she was there the next day to discuss it--amazing.

A short time later, a very competent and kind student teacher from the local university arrived to help out as part of her practicum.  The university-school partnership is an invaluable resource.

Then students embarked on the next stage of the Minnesota-Massachusetts collaborative regional exchange project. The children eagerly worked with partners for an hour preparing a collective Northeast Google presentation for our Edina friends.

Later, while the students played instruments in music class, the tech integration specialist taught me how to use skype as part of the one-to-one technology days professional development effort.  The one-to-one days give teachers a chance to learn for an hour with a tech integration specialist.

Following that, students met in the computer lab to complete number poster projects.  A math coach and special needs teacher were there to assist us.

After lunch it was reading workshop.  Thanks to the efforts of our enhanced PLC model and RTI, a regular special needs teacher is also in the room during most of the reading workshop time. She and I lead book groups while other students read independently, work on reading-related computer programs, and write/create a variety reading responses.

Finally, at the end of the day, we had a little time for math drawing and immigration stories.  During that time, a reading specialist arrived to give extra reading support to some.

The day was great thanks to the amazing efforts and careful coordination of so many skilled and dedicated teachers in addition to thoughtful, student-centered programs.

Targeted, collaborative efforts worked in harmony today to benefit both teachers and students.

Every day should be like this!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Differentiated Professional Development Model

I'm a fan of differentiated professional development, but what does that look like? This is a potential process.
  1. Identify goals and vision--essentially the professional development "umbrella."
  2. Survey professional staff regarding their professional development needs related to goals and vision.
  3. Communicate most or all rote information electronically in order to save precious collaborative time for in-depth professional development.
  4. Create a menu of professional development opportunities for educators related to the survey.  The list might include the following:                      
  5. Develop a communication system where educators share their professional development learning, questions, creations and more.  Make the system such that other educators easily access and respond to the information.  The system might include a website, social network,  professional development conference(s) and a regular newsletter.
  6. Chart impact via observation, anecdotal records and others.
  7. Assess the impact of the model and move forward.
Daniel Pink's book, Drive, provides a strong rationale for educator-centered professional development.  I believe the results of this type of professional growth would greatly exceed the often used one-size-fits-all approach in depth, breadth and effect.  Do you agree?

Note: 12/3 Just read this great pd article that relates well to this post.

Macroscope to Microscope: Classroom Teaching Focus

I love the big ideas, the macrodebates in education.  Those debates are actually easier to contemplate and discuss because you're only one small piece in the equation.  It's not hard to point your finger at others in a macrodebate or step aside when the debate gets personal or heated.  It's a different story in the microsphere.

The truth is that your voice in the big picture is worth very little if you're not doing your job in the microsphere where you work--your classroom, school, district or community.  It's much more difficult to take a close look at your own professional actions and endeavors--to give yourself a report card related to your day-to-day efforts, particularly in a field like education where the potential and possibility of what you learn and do are limitless.

I've been engaged in the big picture debates lately, but now I want to step back and take out the microscope to examine my instructional work, relationships, collegiality and contribution in the classroom, school and district with greater care. What small changes will I make in the days and weeks to come to better effect my work?  Where will I look to gain deeper perspective and understanding to fuel that change?  Which process will I employ to enhance my work?  What will be my first goal--brain research, perhaps?

This is the next journey?  I welcome direction, guides and focus.  Thanks for listening.

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 Global Education Conference Slide Show and Presentation Recording

slide show: https://docs.google.com/present/view?id=d6fsfcc_841vzrv3pcs

presentation recording: https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/recording/playback/link/dropin.jnlp?sid=2008350&suid=D.92B1939832F4F685F7173E2B8F7640

When Ambition Trumps Mission

Ambition is not a bad thing--there's nothing wrong with the desire to get ahead and do the best you can, but when ambition trumps mission in service work such as education, politics, medicine and social work, problems arise.

All those who work with the public have to continually check and recheck their efforts to make sure that they are pointed in the right direction--optimal service to those they serve.

Ambition and mission can work in tandem.  For example, a medical researcher may work passionately to solve a problem related to disease to best effect a cure, or a teacher might work rigorously to understand cognitive strategies that better students' ability to access knowledge, concept and skill.  Both teacher and researcher are ambitious in their pursuit, but mission lies at the center of their efforts.  They both may gain expertise, recognition and possibly monetary gain for their passionate work, but that recognition derives from embracing and achieving the mission.

Sadly, there are some in all service fields that seem to travel only the ambition path--making choices based on getting ahead rather than doing what's right for those they serve--their work is marked by questionable decisions, lack of transparency and surface effect rather than substance.

There are probably few on the far ends of the ambition/mission scale with the rest of us scattered on points throughout the continuum, hopefully points closer to the mission end of our work than the ambition end. Letting ambition trump mission hinders organizational success, stunts potential, and in the end, delays and/or denies optimal service.  On the other hand, when mission drives an organization and individuals' ambition fuels purposeful action then it's a win-win for those that serve and those that are served.

Where do you stand on the ambition/mission scale?  What's important when it comes to keeping a focus on mission while also maximizing the energy and drive that ambition brings?  What is the role of transparency in this discussion?  How is communication and information perceived? And, what role does this discussion play with regard to collaboration?  I welcome your thoughts, ideas and discussion.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

2011 Global Education Challenge?

How do you face a challenge?  I tend to jump right in. After a summer of reflection, research and rest, I read about the 2011 Global Education Conference.  I knew it was time that I engaged my students with projects that foster greater global awareness.  I wanted to learn more so I created and submitted a presentation proposal.  

I could have simply attended the conference, but I knew that engaging with the event in a deeper way would propel my learning with greater attention and motivation.  Creating and submitting the proposal was the first learning event.  For years, I have been improving the unit, What's My Culture?, to build students' respect and awareness of their own cultures and other's cultures.  I honed the unit, wrote the proposal and moved into the teaching year with an eye on my email waiting for response.

From time to time, I visited the conference website to read the latest submissions and news updates.  I continued to develop and teach the unit while reflecting on its merits.  Then I heard the good (and scary) news: my proposal was accepted.  That led me to the next layer of learning--presenting online to a global audience.  I have never done that before.  I did have the chance to engage in a great online discussion led by Jo Hart once, and that gave me some exposure to Blackboard Collaborate and global learning, but essentially this is a brand new learning endeavor for me.  It's both exciting and daunting at the same time.

Luckily the 2011 Global Education team led by Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray offer tremendous support. The frequent detailed emails, links and online training have supported my launch well.  The one-hour online training led by Steve Hargadon was specific and tailored to presenters' and moderators' needs.  The tech specialists at my school helped me as well. They responded with needed equipment (headset), technical advice and the offer to help when needed. Furthermore, my PLN quickly responded to numerous question-tweets regarding presentation content, voice, and organization.  Anne Mirtschin from Australia wrote and shared a post outlining the steps to a successful presentation.  Sham Sensei from Singapore tweeted important presentation tips. Rita Oates from ePals offered to lend her support and collaboration for the project, and many other faithful educators tweeted encouraging messages and links.  

I also shared this endeavor with my students.  We watched the conference trailer and discussed what global connectivity is.  They lent me their support and thoughts last Friday with poster creation and blogging:

  • "Yes I think its good to learn about other people's cultures because then you know what not to say that might be offensive to their culture."
  • "I think it is important to learn about your culture and others because if you don't learn about culture, you won't understand your culture or other's culture. I think we should learn about culture by sharing about different cultures. I like having ePals because I think it's cool to work with people online."
  • "I think it is important to learn about our culture and other cultures because when you grow up, you will have to work with people all over the world. I think kids should learn about other cultures by making culture flags and reading about it. I like having Minnesota and London partners so we can work with them and see different cultures."
On Monday morning, I plan to watch one of the the keynote speakers, Alan November.  I've invited colleagues to share this event with me.  I'm offering coffee and bagels as an added incentive.  I'm hoping a few will take me up on this rare chance to learn with educators throughout the world.

It's not too late to get involved in the 2011 Global Education Conference and further your global education efforts: volunteer (training provided) and/or attend one or more of the sessions.  I also welcome your attendance and insights during my presentation, What's Your Culture?, Monday, November 14th, 10 pm EST.  You can follow the conference highlights on Twitter via #globaled11.

Stay tuned for my conference afterthoughts next week, and as always, I welcome your comments, questions and debate.  The 2011 Global Education Conference is one reason why it's an exciting time to be an educator today.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Better Book Groups

I've always struggled with book group management--so many books, so many students.  It's been difficult for me to make the time, set the routines and keep the depth and breadth of each book in mind as I quickly rotate from one group to the other.

Now, with the onset of RTI and enhanced PLCs in my school system, I'm finding that book groups are more manageable, steady and rewarding for the students and me. What changed?
  1. We have more staff dedicated to reading instruction.  
  2. There is time set aside for just reading instruction.  
  3. We discuss our strategies in our enhanced PLCs which provides a good place to trouble shoot and share ideas.
  4. I read the daily five which is a teacher-friendly book for setting up readers' workshop.  
  5. I'm using Google docs to chart book discussions which means we don't lose our notes and we have a great document to refer to both at the start of the discussion and throughout the meeting.  Google provides efficient image search and dictionary tools that further understanding too.
  6. Students were assessed in a number of quick ways providing teachers with helpful baselines with which to create groups and plan instruction.
  7. There is not a "one size fits all" instructional approach which is allowing each educator to find their own voice and practice when it comes to reading instruction. (I want to read the highly acclaimed book, The Book Whisperer, to further my growth)
Is it perfect?  No.  There's still a lot of areas that require development including: 
  1. Finding the time to keep up with all the reading on top of the other curriculum work I have to do as I'm a fourth grade teacher that covers all subjects.
  2. Fostering students' motivation and follow-through with book assignments--most are doing it, but I have a few more to inspire.
What I like best about this process is that it grows students' reading fluency, comprehension and skill, and our shared discussions result in new learning for all.  For example, yesterday while discussing The Graveyard Book, a young boy said, "I feel bad for Bod," which led to a great discussion that ended with looking at the symbolic use of imagery to depict Bod's feelings of despair at that point in the book.  A rich discussion for fourth graders.

Great teachers have been using literature for all time to impart the wisdom and questions of the ages as well as to develop students' love of reading.  While we rightly prompt students and families to include reading in their home study, we can't deny that the shared reading experiences at school deepen understanding, motivation and depth related to reading.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Urgency Bell Curve

What's your sense of urgency related to student success?  How does your sense of urgency affect lesson planning, student response and classroom instruction? During a summer RTI conference, Dr. Austin Buffum discussed student success with respect to educators' sense of urgency.

I believe there's an urgency bell curve. Not enough urgency leads to passivity (teaching as a job, not profession), and too much urgency deters motivation and confidence.  A just right sense of urgency propels optimal prep, response and instruction.

What does a just right sense of urgency look like? Urgency that supports student learning has these attributes:
  • Knowing the child well.
  • Thoughtful, communicated goals.
  • A step-by-step approach to prioritizing and reaching goals.
  • Regular response.
  • Advocacy
  • A team approach to meeting students' needs.
  • Constant care and a time to celebrate students' gains.
  • A never ending focus on the goals with respect to the whole child--a child does not become a skill-set.
What's your sense of urgency?  Do educators in your environment share a similar sense of urgency?  Do you prioritize goals as a team and determine the urgency related to each goal?  What are your patterns and systems of response to goals that are deemed most urgent?  

Formative Test Lens

Formative tests provide an important lens to student learning and teaching.  A formative test imparts the following information:
  • Specifically what a student grasps and what he/she struggles with.
  • The little things: correct copying, lining up numbers, careful print, following directions.
  • What teaching works--if most or all miss it, that's an instructional issue.
  • Who needs reteaching related to one test, most tests.
  • Students who need alternate teaching strategies and possibly new seating.
  • The classwork/homework learning connection: do test scores match up with classwork and homework scores/performance.
  • Information that informs follow-up teaching strategies.
  • A quick way to report student performance to family members.
Correcting a set of formative tests may take one-two hours.  It's a time consuming task, but a task that positively affects student learning.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Guiding Math Education with a Content Website

My next-door colleague and I are sharing strategies related to research, tech-integration and 21st century skills to develop student learning. Tenacious Team 15 Math Center website is the product of those conversations.

The website supports our weekly math pattern:
  • Concept introduction on Monday; weekly online and paper/pencil assignments introduced.
  • Concept roll-out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through a variety of differentiated activities.
  • Assignment review and formative assessment on Friday.
Each math unit has a separate page on the website.  Each page includes a copy of the paper/pencil assignment, concept introduction notes (created with class), and links to videos, games and online tests that build students' concept, knowledge and skill as well as their independent learning habits.

The content website has many advantages:
  • Student, parents and teachers are able to access the information 24-7 to develop content mastery.
  • Students watch and/or interact with content links repeatedly.
  • Students who are absent have the ability to access the information from near and far.
  • Teachers can access online grades to check-in on students' efforts related to online tests.
  • If a student loses the paper/pencil packet, he/she can simply print another copy.
  • This is a nice way to introduce students to blended learning behavior and information.
I am starting to use content websites to support all classroom learning.  Creating these content websites also provides students with modeling for optimal website use and creation.  Students are able to replicate these behaviors in their ePortfolios or other websites they create.

Also, rather than running to the file cabinet, next year I will refer back to this content website and simply modify, refine and enrich each page as I teach the units.  I can also easily share the information I've deemed most useful and responsive with colleagues.

I've never been able to teach using one math book or program as I always try to match the activities, strategies and learning events to the students which means I end up pulling from many, many resources online and off.  The content website gives me a wonderful vehicle for blending those resources to best support student learning.

Take a look at our math website.  How would you revise it to best meet your students' needs?  What would you add?  Do you notice any need for language change?  Are you building content websites?  If so, what's important related to the creation and use of these sites?  I look forward to your response.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Mid-Semester Reflections

We had a short week last week, and many educators remarked, "That was the longest short week ever!"  I think that remark emanated, in part, from the fact that it's mid-semester (we have two semesters at our school).

Every educator is well aware of the list of standards, goals, curriculum outlines and progress monitoring that exists in each subject and at every grade level. We know where we want to take students, and how we want to get there.  We don't want to overwhelm, yet we do want to see progress.  We know it's a different journey for each child, yet, in most cases, there's one of us and many children to guide, coach, mentor and teach.

There's an upbeat to the tempo in most classrooms come November. Introductions are complete, and routines are in place.  Now there's a need to move forward boosting the pace and expectations--stretching our learners' stamina and effort.

So that leads one to reflection:
  • What are the current goals?
  • What are the expectations?
  • How will we continue to facilitate student learning?
With that in mind, I wrote a letter to the team: students, family members and teachers.  I outlined where we are now, and where we are heading. I welcomed questions and comments. I'll review this reflection with students on Monday morning as we embark on chapter two of the first semester of school.

It's a complex puzzle integrating current standards/goals with students' needs/interests and new teaching venues, technology and ideas, but when embraced as a step-by-step process it becomes more transparent and manageable.

What does your mid-term or semester reflection look like?  How do you communicate your reflections with your team: students, family members and colleagues?  What have I missed in this process? Thanks for listening.  As always, I welcome ideas, comments and debate.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Formative Assessments

Each year I set up a different pattern of formative testing dependent on the school schedule and collective student profile.  This year, I typically give students a formative assessment on Friday.  I design the assessment to assess the weekly learning goals that lend themselves to a test assessment. These are the reasons why I like this formative testing pattern:

  1. It's a quick way to assess what goals students achieved and those that require reteaching.
  2. It's a way to assess my teaching weekly. Were my plans and efforts effective?  What can I tweak for better instruction?
  3. It helps me to form optimal groups for small-group instruction and individualized help.
  4. It gives me solid information to work with when planning the following week's schedule.
  5. It's an efficient vehicle for home-school communication related to students' academic development.
I grade the tests using a fraction: correct answers/total questions.  

There's a lot of discussion about tests related to education.  I still believe that formative assessments (tests) are a worthy element of an overall academic program.  Some students are highly motivated by tests and scores--they like testing their knowledge and working towards the testing goal.

Tests should not be the only assessment tool. I generally assess reading and writing goals through weekly reading response letters, conferences and book groups.  Students' written words and dialogue provide me with evidence of the skills they've gained and those left for greater instruction and focus.  That Quiz offers optimal tools for math fact skills and geography assessment. Project work is yet one more way to assess and develop learning.

An additional positive aspect of the weekly test is the hour of quiet concentration and focus it requires.  I watch students sit still and work.  I observe the way they tackle the test and the specific questions they ask me regarding the content  That also informs my instruction.  I try to plan the test when special educators are working in the classroom so they can assist students with IEP goals related to the content.  I ask the special educators and assistants to write notes on the side of the tests regarding areas that they helped with and needs for greater instruction.

Do you have a formative testing pattern in your classroom?  If so, how does it differ from my pattern?  What do you focus on when designing and responding to students' formative assessments?  I look forward to your responses as I continue to develop this process.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Professional Development Protocol?

Protocol:  A code of correct conduct.

When I started my classroom social network several years ago, it was at-first a wild exchange of ideas. I found that I had to redirect often.  The following year, I added a simple protocol:
  • Use Polite Language
  • Post Polite Images.
  • No Violent images or language.
  • Report images, videos and/or language that are offensive.
    Now I rarely have to redirect or reteach related to our classroom NING.

    What are the proper protocols for professional development?  What behaviors and attitudes do we want to model for our students?  

    Recently, at tech conferences, the following protocols enhanced and inspired my learning:
    • Choose what you want to hear and/or see.
    • Contact the presenter prior to the presentation if you'd like.
    • Leave the presentation if it's not meeting your learning needs.
    • Use tech during the presentation to take notes, tweet out essential facts/questions, and multi-task.
    • Ask questions.
    • Gather emails and links for follow-up.
    • Find a comfortable place to engage.
    During the tech conferences, I always multi-task because the conferences are usually inspirational prompting me to let others know about what I'm learning as well as to integrate the new learning immediately into other venues such as classroom social networks, collegial emails and curriculum work.

    Recently, many educators from my PLN attended authorspeak11, and although I didn't attend the event I was able to gain inspiration and many follow-up links through their related tweets.  I must say it seemed like an awesome conference.

    Educators' professional development is not always like a tech conference.  In fact multi-tasking, tweeting and using tech is sometimes frowned upon and met with the response, "Is that good modeling for our students? Is that the way we want our students to behave?"  Which leaves one with the question: What are the best protocols for professional development endeavors in education?  Should a protocol be set prior to a professional development event?  Should we encourage educators to bring tech along or leave it at home?  What about multi-tasking and tweeting?  And ultimately, what are the behaviors we want to model in the 21st century for optimal learning and exchange?

    While the protocol debate continues, I want to encourage all educational facilitators to set a protocol in writing prior to pd events.  I suggest that the protocol is one that's open-ended and responsive to the pd event. You can tell I'm an advocate for protocols that inspire connectivity, communication and integration.  What does that look like at your grade-level, school or system-wide pd endeavors?

    I'm looking forward to any and all response to this post as it's an issue many educators are dealing with as we move towards productive protocols that will not only enhance teachers' learning, but student learning too.

    Update 4/8/16: As I read this old post, I recognized that we've come a long way since the day when I wrote this. Now the tech that was questioned when I wrote this post is fully accepted which is a welcome change. 

    Wednesday, November 02, 2011

    Perspective Matters

    Teaching school has a treadmill quality to it--it's fast-paced, steady, time-on-task oriented.  As you teach, your mind fills with so many possibilities.  You know what you can do to effect change and help students, but sometimes, due to the treadmill schedule, you just don't have the time to make it happen.

    This week, due to storm related power outages, we had two days off from school.  I had the chance to correct math tests, catch up on book group prep, respond to twenty-two poetry projects and twenty-two reading letters.  I also had the chance to prep upcoming math units, social studies projects and other curriculum events.  Most importantly, I had time to sit back and think about each student and the overall program.  I gained perspective.

    It shouldn't have to take an October snow storm to catch up on so much work, and it shouldn't be that the weekends, early morning hours and late night hours are spent on so much important school work. Yes, I expect to spend some afterwork hours on school related tasks.  After all, most professionals today work beyond the eight-hour day, but excessive hours take its toll on health, energy and perspective.

    I believe that prioritizing, thoughtful staffing, and creative scheduling can better respond to educators' needs to prep, plan and respond to student efforts and the overall educational program.  Perspective matters and moving away from the treadmill schedules in schools will foster healthy, positive and productive perspective.  Do you agree?