Monday, August 06, 2012

2012 MTA Summer Conference: Day One

My View (Still working on my camera skills.)
Nestled in the the middle of hills and mountains the Massachusetts Teachers Union (MTA) Summer Conference is taking place at Williams College.  And yes, I have a room with a view!  I wonder why we can't make all our learning environments as beautiful as this one.

Unlike many tech conferences, there aren't a lot of tweeters or bloggers here, but there are many collegial groups of educators exchanging ideas, attending workshops and having fun.  My first day was jam packed with outstanding presentations.  

The day started with Mary Chamberlain's Writing About Math and Science Workshop. Mary led teachers through a series of exercises that both develop students’ writing facility and strengthen student learning across the curriculum. She emphasized that she always completes an activity herself before asking students to do the activity. The many quick-write strategies that Chamberlain introduced can be used in conjunction with Common Core standards as teachers work to balance information and literary texts to strengthen students’ ability to write evidence based answers, cite sources, utilize academic vocabulary and develop speaking and listening skills. Ms. Chamberlain emphasized that teachers need to foster a classroom climate where students have the time and opportunity to talk, listen, write and think. I have listed many of the strategies presented with a brief explanation at the bottom of the page.

After a wonderful picnic lunch, I attended Jennifer Hanson's workshop highlighting Primary Source. Hanson's Global Literature page is amazing and available to guide and support educators who are conducting research, gaining background information and choosing informational text and literature for student learning. Ms. Hanson also introduced us to the powerful and problematic concept of a "single story" as explained by novelist, Chimamanda Adichie in her TED Talk. Adichie's talk demonstrates the need to seek out and employ stories that allow students to "see themselves" in the text while also building honest understanding of the many cultures, environments and people in our communities and world.

I ended my first full day at the Summer MTA Conference listening to, and partaking in, a discussion led by Mitchell D. Chester, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and Paul Toner, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.  I was interested in learning about the current efforts taking place related to the Common Core, teacher evaluation and assessment.  Teachers posed many wonderful questions demonstrating their care and desire for learning communities that provide fair and equitable “conditions for excellence.” I left the discussion with the belief that all parties: educators, the State and the union, have a vested interest in student learning, and the potential is there for Massachusetts to continue a collaborative path towards successful student learning for all as evidenced in this joint document, "Transforming the Teacher Profession."

Writing Strategies that Build Writing Skill and Learning

Mathematical/Science Autobiographies: Students write short autobiographies of their learning experiences related to math and/or science.  I hope to create a series of prompts to lead students writing for this start of the year assignment.

10-2: A large part of the time (10) is spent on the writing activity, then, after processing the activity, the shorter amount of time (2) is spent on reflection related to the activity.

Math Journals: Decide before the year starts on the type of format(s), writing book or other platforms students will use to write and share their math thinking.

TILT Exit Slips: TILT stands for “Today I Learned That.”  Students complete a TILT page at the end of each lesson.  Teacher reads, analyzes and reflects on students’ TILTs at the start of the next lesson.

Turning Points: Incorporate strategies that create “turning points” for students such as the opportunity to peer tutor, acknowledging a students’ learning and breakthroughs.  Beware of the potent language and actions that can cause a negative turning point.

Dialogue Journals: Students write back and forth to each other about a specific prompt.

Write Around: Groups of 3-5 write about a prompt, then pass the writing on to the next person. The next person reads the prompt, then comments and passes the paper on again. This continues  until all people in the group have had a chance to comment on each paper.

Double Entry Journals, T-charts, Two-Column Notes: Notes that allow students to process two related (or opposite) knowledge streams at the same time such as problem/solution, opinion/proof, facts/feelings, words/images, pros/cons and more.

Apprenticeship: Students’ opportunity to practice and learn the language (vocabulary) associated with a discipline.

Anticipation Guides: What do you know, what can you expect and what do you predict.

Three Facts and a Fib: Students jot down four statements, and peers have to guess which one is the fib.

Imagery: Using visual images to symbolize a concept or content.

Time lines, venn diagrams, songs, raps. . . .: Utilizing graphic organizers and popular formats to organize and make meaning of information such as the

Metaphors: Creating metaphors for concepts, words.  Using prompts to guide students’ work.

Word Sorts: Guiding students’ efforts with regard to content vocabulary word sorts.

Rhymezone: Online Rhyming Dictionary
Educational Rap