Wednesday, December 05, 2012

21st Century Skills Workshop

How is skill acquisition changing in classrooms today?  Rather than the teacher directed one-size-fits-all learning environment of the past, tech tools and other resources are making skills workshops more vibrant, profitable and targeted.  Here's an example to consider.  Please let me know if you have any information or ideas to add.

After a number of assessments and observation, it was clear to me that students needed to shore up their skills in a number of areas, hence I planned a skills workshop.

My workshop "grabber" included a short discussion of Carol Dweck's research on  fixed mindset vs. growth mindset.  I used the white board and words to explain that in days of old, many people had a "fixed mindset" and thought that they were unable to learn more or change in some ways, and today we know that with a "growth mindset" tremendous learning and achievement of goals are possible.  I further explained that today it's not a matter of "I can't learn," but instead it's a situation where people are asking, "What do I need to learn to meet my goals?" since there are so many incredible learning tools available.  Students quickly grasped this notion.

Then I started by reviewing a specific rounding skill using the That Quiz online math tool.  Students had taken a rounding assessment using that tool last week and many did not do well.  I wasn't sure how much of their performance had to do with their skill level and how much had to do with the assessment activity so I explicitly taught the activity to students and had everyone re-take the skill. While teaching students the skill, I showed them how to enlarge the screen several times to make the numbers bigger--I noted that often when a task is difficult, enlarging the screen makes it easier for the brain to focus on the task rather than working hard to read the big numbers.

After teaching the activity, I created a skills menu on the board for all students including the following:
  • Complete 2 That Quiz Rounding tests (link)
  • Work on Lexia (reading skills software) for twenty minutes-time yourself with the online timer.
  • Work on Xtra Math for 15 minutes (again use online timer)
  • Play Math Games: Sum Dog or Greg Tang
As soon as the skills workshop started I called a few students that I wanted to target up to work next to me.  As I coached those students, I watched the other students' performance scores come in on the computer--many were flying through the rounding tests with accuracy and speed, and a few others were clearly struggling.  Several students approached me for specific questions, and as soon as the first students I targeted were on their way, I sent them back to their desks and called a few others up to target their work.

About midway into the activity, I was able to check the Lexia and Xtra Math reports.  Some of my speedy students did not spend the twenty-minutes on Lexia and moved to the games right away, so I redirected those students back to Lexia as I want them to complete the program this year and get the essential learning that the program offers which will strengthen their reading/writing foundation.  Since I was in view of all, I also changed a few seats and moved people around if I noticed they were having difficulty learning in their space.

Children were engaged, and the children I was coaching at the table were working really hard to complete the multi-step online rounding task--as I coached them I could feel their brains working to remember and apply each step when it comes to identifying the place value of numbers that reached to the billions and rounding to that specific place value.  

All in all it was a successful skills workshop, one that we'll repeat with a menu that fits the class's learning needs each time. Also, students are able to access most of these skill building programs on their own time in school and at home, and many are driven to building their skill and foundation so I know they'll make good use of the tools outside of the skill workshop.  And for those who are not apt to practice on their own time, I'll continue to coach them on developing a growth mindset as well as finding the tools and activities that engage and propel their learning quest.