Saturday, May 31, 2014

Understand Expectations Well

As I consider end-of-the-year scores and assessments, I am reminded of the fact that it is important to understand a school system's priorities well at the start of the year.  It is also important to look carefully and discuss the tools, strategies, and processes that worked to raise students' achievement in particular areas and the efforts that didn't work as well. Analyzing this information at the end of one year will lead to a better start and greater progress the next year.

Friday, May 30, 2014

TEAM Research #16: Less is More?

As we continue to navigate our TEAM Research project related to endangered species, I find myself analyzing each step of the project with respect to the learning and teaching goals.

I also find myself wondering about "less is more" with regard to this project and others.

"Less" provides greater opportunity to get it right and polish a project, yet "more" provides a greater number of learning avenues and potential repetitions that are child-friendly.  Again, like all things education, I believe a just-right balance for your teaching/learning goals and students' interests/needs is the way to go.

As I reflect on the revised project to date, I have the following thoughts:

  • What worked: lots of materials, showing models of past projects, time to explore and create, a child-friendly focus which honors their creativity, process ideas and steps, project meetings, a team approach.
  • What could be better: introduction to materials lesson including how to use the materials, put away materials, and share, and even more models of use and care.
Google Presentations
  • What worked: a guiding website, models, collaborative teams, guided research website.
  • What could be better: spending time at the start of the year and throughout the year learning how to use a guided website in multiple ways, even more practice with using online research tools and information to create multimedia compositions, still more attention to text features and formats.  Essentially, since this is a culminating project, the entire year's short projects and standards-base efforts could lead up to this in a focused, explicit way.
Film and Presentation Scripts and Delivery
  • What worked: Setting up a Google chart for shared script writing is a great way to foster share, writing, and voice, script writing and rehearsal provides authentic, engaging fluency practice in both reading and writing, and this is an engaging way to share information with classmates and others.
  • What could be better: More time and more models would help in this area as well as more explicit attention to the standards. Further, the addition of more, shorter and similar fluency projects throughout the year would really enhance this part of the project. 
Overall, so far, the addition of the collaborative aspect of this project as well as the scripts and greater presentation has enhanced this project so that it is a better fit for Common Core standards and student learning.  

Looking at a project like this as a capstone project, a culminating piece that synthesizes the year's learning, can provide the start to wonderful backwards design when it comes to a year's teaching and learning--teaching and learning that is focused on students' interests and needs as well as the standards and goals of the grade level. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TEAM Research #15: School Assembly

Students will give a presentation at school meeting. Their presentation will include a spoken introduction by six members of our class and a video noting endangered species project topics and the service learning sale.

The students worked tirelessly writing and rehearsing lines for the video as well as creating the images in Google draw.

So far the project highlights have included the following:
  • Focus on collaboration. (We've had many collaboration discussions)
  • Geography: I really liked connecting the research to a specific animal reservation.
  • Display creation and design.
  • Guided research.
The challenge as always is time--with projects like these you could go on forever, and because of that you choose "good enough" stopping spots.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TEAM Research #12: Classroom Joy

After a scurry to clean up our classroom and put our giant displays in order, children worked carefully on WeVideo scripts and slides.  Instead of lots of individual movies, we opted to make one big movie together--a movie of slides and little videos for next Tuesday's school assembly.

The beautiful drawings, slides, and sculpture that students created truly brightened the day.

TEAM Research #14: Wonderful WeVideo

As our TEAM Research project nears its final chapter, it's time to make our WeVideo film. At first each team was going to make their own film, but now we're going to make one collective film. The object of our film is to introduce the animal reservations, animals, and each service learning sale as part of our endangered species study.

So at first each group will write and complete a short script for filming.  The script will basically relay a message like this:

"We studied the _______________________ in ____________________, a reservation that saves the ________________________. You can help by buying ____________________________ at our Wednesday and Thursday Sale.
Where in the world is the reservation and animals you studied?

I'll encourage teams to write the text in a clever way and then act it out with enthusiasm in front of their display.

I'll also ask each team to craft three slides using Google draw:
  • One slide will show and name the reservation with a map showing and naming where in the world the reservation is.
  • The next slide will show and name the animals studied, and 
  • The final slide will show their sale items. 
The students can easily share their slides with me on Google.

I'll put the entire film together on my WeVideo account.

A small group of students will write a script and introduce the film at our school assembly.

This will be a fun project for a cool, wet morning of school.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Changing Grades: Summer Study

Changing grades demands summer study in order to do a good job.  There simply isn't the time during a typical school week to research, prepare for, and organize for new units of study.  The school week's prep and planning time is just enough to prune the learning path and respond to student efforts, but not enough time for deep unit preparation and plans.  Hence, as I look forward to a new grade, I'm cognizant of the need to plan ahead and prepare.

The first area of need is ordering.  Typically school materials are ordered in June for the following year.  Hence to be prepared for next year's young scientists and mathematicians, I have to make sure that I have the necessary materials to do the job well.  Hence, the first step is to contact last year's teachers and the curriculum leadership to know what tools and materials exist and what tools and materials need to be ordered.

As I think of ordering, I also need to think about the room set-up.  What do I need to foster thoughtful scientific exploration and learning.  At present I am imagining a lot of plastic caddies with drawers for storage of supplies and wheels for easy movement.

I will need to read up on all the topics since it's been a while since I've taught those units, and research related to science is in constant flux.  While reading, I'll identify a good collection of books and videos that support the study, and perhaps use PTO money to order some of those books.

I've created math and science websites to host the information related to each unit of study and will make those websites available to the learning community for learning at anytime, anyplace.  I also need to immerse myself in the current technology available to see how that works and what standards it responds to.  I'll probably explore more technology beginning with Concord Consortium's virtual platforms related to standards-base science study.  I heard the leaders of that company speak at a teach conference a few years ago, and I was impressed with their research and creation process and impact.

Scheduling and Planning
Once I have a good feel for the units and goals to come, I'll be better equipped to create a schedule that supports that learning.

Standards and Standardized Tests
There are new standards and research related to science. Massachusetts has chosen to reflect the standards in student work and learning, but not adopt the standards word-for-word.  I need to read more about that to understand that well.  Also I need to read about, and be familiar with, Massachusetts' State tests related to science and weave both the standards and test question types and focus into each unit to prepare students well.

Good work takes time, and changing grades requires that teachers set aside time during the summer months to prep for the upcoming change.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Learning by Immersion: STEAM

Ms. Cherwinski's TEAM 16 at SCRATCH Event
One part of teaching that I love is the learning--it's a sport for me, and as I look forward to next year, I look forward to investing myself in the teaching and learning of science and math with depth. This focus reminds me that there is an atmospheric dimension to learning. This is usually related to learning that is secondary, not your first purpose. First step, prioritized learning takes on a more structured, dynamic route. In the past few years, I've felt this atmospheric learning related to STEAM, and now I'm ready to pull all those pieces together as I reach forward to a primarily math and science 5th grade program next year.

Student Interest and STEAM Study
One group of students that's the most difficult to meet in elementary school is our very bright high-tech students--mostly boys and a growing number of girls who gravitate towards all things related to building, tech, and science.  These are the students who often prefer collecting worms to playing football, building with legos over table hockey, and Minecraft afterschool rather than basketball.  In the old days, these students were very resistant when it came to writing and paper/pencil tasks, but now with the onset of computers, that's not always the case as many of these students readily craft multimedia compositions using Google, Microsoft, and other apps and tools.

Similarly computers and programs such as SCRATCH and Khan Academy coding have given students like this a collaborative, creative, and challenging outlet they gravitate to with strength and learning. These students are also always creating, and if your classrooms have the materials for building and design, they find what they need to make all kinds of inventions. Next year, as I move to fifth grade science and math teaching, I hope to have an even better maker station with lots of materials for the exploration of life science, simple machines, chemistry, and more.  I look forward to lots of play and exploration this summer with that in mind, and the opportunity to seek out and study references that blend science and math teaching in interdisciplinary, real-world ways.

Colleagues, Conferences, and the News
Ms. Cherwinski's students, parents, and even one of my
students attended thanks to her invitation. 
Colleagues and leaders all around us are talking about the need for greater STEAM teaching and learning.  It's demonstrated in the news, online, and at conferences all the time.  We all see a growing number of student events, clubs, and activities rooted in STEAM.  Just last week, my next-door-neighbor colleague, Susan Cherwinski, met a number of students at MIT's SCRATCH DAY.  Not only did the students learn, but she brought back many new ideas for her classroom. One way Ms. Cherwinski shares ideas is to invite other classes in to see and learn from her students. Just this week we visited her class to learn about new ideas for our endangered species projects. The learning and creative exchange was dynamic. Later we'll visit again as her students teach mine how to use Makey Makey and other science-tech tools funded by our school's PTO to learn and explore science.

Also, just about a year ago, I had the chance to share my STEAM ideas and questions with some of the world's leading science-tech innovators at The Intersection Event  at a Google round table.  Their response to my proposal was challenging, but today, about a year later, as I think about their responses, their words hold more understanding and forward movement for me.  Similar learning came a year before that as I listened to Gary Stager explain the Maker Movement at Educon 2.4. Then recently Ms. Cherwinsk and I got more inspiration at the Poughkeepsie Day Workshop. Also, Mr. Musselman, Burlington's science teacher is a source of constant inspiration and support.

Standards, Tools, and Processes
New science standards and focus, multiple new tech tools online and off, and more readily available research and project information online is also forwarding this atmospheric learning.  Over the summer, I'll make trips to local design and engineering shops to collect good materials.  Just recently I met a materials engineer who may be a good resource with this in mind, and may be willing to come in and talk to the class next year.  I'll also spend some time reading and researching online to learn about maker stations, supplies, and activities. Online, I'll take a look at Gizmos, a study site our school subscribes too.  I'll also take another look at Tynker.  I already know that SCRATCH will be a mainstay since the students know and love it so well that they practically speak SCRATCH. I'm sure that other tools, processes and programs will come my way too.  And we'll continue this year's River study with the Audubon Association.

There is much to learn in the weeks ahead, and I plan to immerse myself in the areas of math and science as I move forward and follow my students as they move a year ahead. I'm hoping that Ms. Cherwinski and her new kindergarten assignment will buddy with us regularly to extend this exploration as well.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

TEAM Research #13: Workshop

Teaching is not a straight path.  There are multiple revisions as change is a constant.

My students are embedded into their endangered species projects creating Google presentation, scripts, WeVideos, Scratch Games, displays and more.

Today we had the wonderful chance to visit our neighbor class and view their fantastic projects. My colleague, Ms. Cherwinski, facilitated a multi-modal endangered species review including lego sculpture, posters, SCRATCH games, Google slide shows, movies, hands-on maker stations (origami whales and Sculpty pandas), and movies.  One highlight was a young boy's mountain gorilla rap.  I also really liked the way another student added students' faces to images of the animals they were studying. Creativity was everywhere, and that creativity inspired my students.

Tomorrow we'll complete scripts and slide shows then work on displays and Wevideos.  This is the fun part of the project--the "everyone is involved" part where the most important research and presentation takes place. Onward.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Changing Grades: School Year 2014-2015

Positive actions and intent focus for any grade.
As the result of an elementary school reconfiguration, I will change grades.  There are many teachers changing grades and/or schools as we extend grades k-4 throughout three schools.  Early in the year I made a commitment that if the process was thoughtful, I would not complain about any change. Hence, I'm not complaining as I do think the process was thoughtful; the reconfiguration will result in more space for teaching and learning, and the greater space will be helpful as we work to meet every child's needs.

I'll move from fourth grade to fifth grade.  I've taught fifth grade before, but this time I'll focus on mainly science and math.  It is an exciting time to focus on both those studies as the integration of technology gives us terrific new potential to inspire, educate, and respond to all students with regard to both topics.

I'll also join a new team, a team similar to my current team in that they're dedicated and skilled at what they do.

Summer study will find me immersing myself in the two main topics in the following ways:
  • Taking a Massachusetts Department of Education course in proportional thinking and math. 
  • Completing the grade 5 Khan Academy course of study to refresh my skills in that area.
  • Continuing to add to the newly revised class math website
  • Reading the the new standards and the MA standards related to science.
  • Reviewing the many science standards at grade 5 and updating the science website
  • Thinking of ways to create a math/science-friendly environment.
50% of this year's students will follow me as I'll work in a cluster of two teachers and approximately 50 students.  I'll talk to my students about that today, and ask for their advice on what's important for a teacher who is moving up with a grade.  I'll be interested in their thoughts, ideas, and questions.  I find that this transparency really helps with any transition.

I'll continue to work on the move-up letter prior to teacher announcements.  I'll add a parent survey portion so parents will have a voice as to next year's program and effort to best meet their child's needs. I'll take their comments and thoughts seriously as I plan the year ahead. I'll also confer with next year's team, and add the points, information, and supplies they feel are integral to a successful fifth grade year. 

The learning curve in the last couple weeks has been steep, but not without good merit for my future teaching/learning work.  The journey continues always with an element of ease and predictability and an element of challenge, surprise, and change. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TEAM Research #11: Serve the Students

In days of old, the teacher led most learning from the front of the room. Research shows that this "sage on the stage" role plays only one part of a balanced, blended learning program.  Research today also demonstrates the strength of student-to-student collaboration, conversation, and creativity.  So as this project evolves in the next few days, I'll mostly serve the students by answering questions, proving resources, directing and redirecting, leading focus lessons on specific research topics, and cheerleading them on towards great work with our project outline.

Tasks (note: sadly the play will be postponed until after the ES project)
  1. Research, Write
  2. Create Objects for Display

Project Display Ideas
Weeks of 5/19
& 5/26

  • Google Presentations
  • Wevideos
  • Scripts
  • Props and Practice
  • Displays
  • Service Learning Items and Signage
  • School Assembly Presentation Practice and Script
  • Franklin Park Zoo trip research
Video Steps:
  • Make about 5-Google Draw slides with images and words. Download.
  • Open WeVideo, Create New Project
  • Upload Media (slides)
  • Create Text Slides and Recordings-note that you have choices on the recording by choosing from the template choices
  • Add Music
  • Edit
  • Show Teacher
  • Make Corrections
  • Show Teacher Again
Skype 5/23 w/Lemur Expert
Practice School Meeting Presentation Friday 5/30 - send Ms. Crozier links.
Week of June 2
  1. School Meeting Presentation
  2. Service Learning Sales: June 4 and 5.
  3. Project Presentation Practice
Week of June 9
  1. Practice
  2. Presentation June 11 from 9-11
  3. Presentation in other classrooms.
  4. Project Reflection, Add to ePortfolio.

TEAM Research #10: Writing Scripts

Students are motivated to write their endangered species presentation scripts.  The first group got up today, and practiced. Their script was an engaging story about four animals on an adventure.  They wove in the facts from the project.  It was much more interesting than the presentations of old days.

So we spent a little time talking about and writing TEAM scripts using this script guide packet. 

Script Writing

TEAM Research #9: Messiness

"Learning and teaching is messy stuff. It doesn't fit into bubbles. I don't think a simple pencil-and-paper test is going to capture what students know and can do." 
-Michele Forman, Teacher of the Year 2001

We're at a messy spot with regard to TEAM research as teams are all at different places with their work.  This is where the teacher as coach is very important.  Yesterday, by the end of the day, it was clear we needed a meeting to set some new parameters with regard to our displays, collaboration, and research efforts

Hence, we'll spend some time after lunch meeting to discuss students' needs and expectations. We'll think about transitions and details such as where to stack your chairs at the end of the day with our new configuration, how to design our spaces including a peek at our neighboring class's wonderful displays, and the kinds of behaviors that support each other's work rather than take away from it.

I want to take some pictures today too so I can chart the class's efforts. The TEAM Research journey continues.

Interesting Study on Messiness
Embracing Messy Learning

TEAM Research Posts
TEAM Research Project Scope and Sequence
Set the Stage: Room Revision #1
Research Template #2
Substance #3
Just Right Challenge #4
First Edit #5
Revision #6
Coaching #7
WeVideo #8

Monday, May 19, 2014

End of Year Assessments: The Standards Based Report Card

Below is a share copy of an end-of-year math assessment that
reflects the CCSS standards listed on students' standards based report cards. 
Our system moved to a standards based report card based with prioritized standards from the CCSS. As the year draws to a close, I will give a number of end-of-year assessments to get a benchmark related to students' overall concept, skill, and knowledge for each of the standards. I will couple these benchmark scores with formative assessment observations, scores, and efforts from the past term when marking the student progress report. Further, the information will come in handy as I make suggestions for summer study, and as I share information with next year's teachers related to students' needs and priorities.

How will I create and give these assessments?

Today, we'll start with a Google Form Math Assessment that is based on all the CCSS report card standards.  The assessment form is mainly multiple choice or short answer, however I'll give students a hard copy to to use as they work out more complex problems and operations.  I'll collect the hard copy, and refer to it when students get problems wrong to understand the need.

Later in the week I'll use That Quiz to assess students' fact skill for each operation as well as enrichment facts such as algebraic equations and other number knowledge facts. I'll also take a look at their problem solving efforts and abilities.

With regard to ELA, I'll use students' winter narrative work, current endangered species project work, and some discrete skill tests.

When standardized scores come in a few months after the progress reports, I'll compare those scores with the home grown standards tests I'm giving now to make sure there's a correlation.  If there's not a correlation, I'll look a bit more deeply.

Woven in and around the tests will be students' end-of-year study of endangered species PBL, plate tectonics, coding, river habitats, and the traditional attention to reading, writing, and math.

What do your end-of-year assessments look like?  How do they inform your work completing progress reports and report cards?  Do they match-up with standardized tests? And, how do you balance this testing with more comprehensive, engaging, hands-on, interdisciplinary learning.  These are all questions that teachers consider at the end of the year and throughout the year.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Project Journey: Learning in the Field

 The middle years - roughly six to twelve--is a time of greatly expanded interest, curiosity and capacity for assimilating knowledge and understanding the natural world. Rapid cognitive and intellectual growth occurs, including many critical thinking skills achieved through interaction and coping in the nonhuman environment.  Intellectual development at this stage is especially facilitated by direct contact with nearby natural settings, where a world of exploration, imagination and discovery becomes increasingly evident to the child.    - Stephen R. Kellert

The goal of integrating learning into field studies with greater intent continues.

This journey started with zest a few years ago when I read a great post by Lynn Hilt.  Also inspired by many field studies I experienced as a child with my school, Girl Scouts, the church, and my family, I know how powerful field studies can be.

A few years ago we wrote a grant for a Zoo-School partnership.  The grant was denied, but then I submitted it again the next year with some updates and the grant was approved.  We had a great trip to the zoo last year, and we're returning again this year.

Desiring to build the nature experience more, and supported by research, I moved the grant site closer and worked with Robin Stuart at Drumlin Farm over the summer to set up our Farm Days Study. Then in turn, Drumlin invited us to be part of their Rivers Study three-year grant, and that study starts tomorrow.

How will the grade-level team and I continue to build and grow field studies, and what is the result of these studies?  I will think on that in the summer, and invite you to add your two cents should you have links, ideas, or experiences to share.

Twitter Meet-Up: EdcampBLC

I'm still sad that I missed #edcampboston.  It was the right thing to do due to personal matters, but I really missed that dose of inspiration and camaraderie, the kind that forwards your work with strength.

I find myself thinking of the next #edcamp I'll attend #edcampblc in Boston on July 14. I have hoped to attend this #edcamp for a while, and I think this year will work.

When I attend, one conversation I want to put up on the board is a Twitter Meet-Up.

During that session, I'd love to talk about the following questions.

1. How did you start with Twitter?

2. What keeps you going?

3. What's one story you have about Twitter and teaching, you'd like to share?

4. How have you built your Twitter PLN out with real time collaboration, learning, and work?

5. Other thoughts and questions.

I know for me it's been daunting to interact in depth online and then to meet my Twitter PLN in real time with little time or place for real conversation and exchange.  Hence, I'm hoping to see some my Twitter PLN at #edcampblc so we can have this conversation.

Model Research Regularly: Google Research Tools

I just updated my students' home study list.

The list is hosted on a Google doc for regular review.

The new list includes the following:
  • Image and link to article related to current research.
  • A quote.
  • Quick Links: overview of at-home study expectations. 
  • Homework Chart: home study details.
  • Additional Information and Charts: to support students' home study.
  • Message app to foster regular share and questioning like Twitter.
  • Calculator app to help students out with homework.
As I worked on this update today, I used Google's research tool.  Then when the footnote immediately was placed on the page, I thought about how I can research each week using this tool which will introduce students to footnotes and the research process in a natural way--a way for which they can see the value and a way that they can copy as they do their own research.

As educators, we can consistently and deeply share our own learning process through a regular share document like this home study list.  It's a one-stop place for the learning community when it comes to understanding the work and study to do as well as sharing the questions and homework related to that study.

I'm playing around with the "Messenger app" to build greater share on this document. 

Do-It-Yourself-School: Google Learning

This is an example of a fourth grade Google doc
home study share.
I spent some time playing around and exploring all the new tools Google has to offer this weekend, and I realized, more than ever before, that Google makes a "Do-It-Yourself-School" possible in so many ways.

As I played with scripts, I realized how this new age of tools is changing our brains so that we think about everything with mathematics as we manipulate the relationships between actions and content to best meet the needs of our learners.  I am a "baby" in the script world, but I'm excited to learn as not only will I learn scripts, but I'll gain more understanding about the process of learning.

The challenge is to discover where to start and how to travel as Google has created their own virtual landscape of learning--a powerful universe of knowledge and potential we will all profit from.


Home Base: Resource Center(s)
Create a home base or home bases that do the following:
  • Resource site with links and key information: class website(s). Link all sites to one another.
  • Study site: a place to document current work, links, goals, work flow. . .
Interaction Space(s)
Create spaces where the learning community can share and communicate.
  • Google doc: for children under 13 at Google schools that can be a shared Google doc w/add-ons for share.
  • Google+: Create a Google+ community for parent share and communication or for children older than 13.
  • Twitter: Create a # for your community or a Twitter account to conduct chats and distribute "sound bite" information and links.
Think Spaces
A blog can serve as a think space--a space to share underlying principles, questions, and philosophy. The blog can also link to journals, other blogs, and related resource sites.

Collaboration, Research and Creation Spaces
These spaces are the rooms for creativity and share--building knowledge spaces.  
  • Wevideo: collaborative film
  • Google docs, sites, pages: collaborative writing, share, creation.
  • Google Draw and Research Tools are amazing spaces for content creation and broader learning. 
  • Google Forms for surveys, reflection, and more. 
Survey Spaces
A space to collect, analyze, and share data.
  • Google Forms
  • Add analytics to any site to study and analyze data to inform decisions. Great learning for students' data and statistics understanding.
News and Showcase Spaces
Share the classroom news regularly through an update space that tells what has happened, what is happening, and what is planned to happen.  That presents an overview of the learning program.
  • Use a Google site to host all newsletters.  In the end that serves as a school story for the year.
  • Use a blog to host news. This is particularly great for grade three and under. 
  • Use a blog to showcase and share students' best work and efforts with the learning community near and far. 
  • Twitter and Google+ Communities can also serve as great news sites. 
  • Students' own websites and blogs are the best way to share the learning news. 
Personalize the Learning Environment
Adding apps and scripts can personalize the work so that all that doesn't require people time can run on it's own time--the scripts are almost only limited by your understanding of how to use them (my newest learning curve) and your imagination.

How will you use Google to create your own "Do-It-Yourself-School" for your learners--a school that will foster independent and collaborative life-long learning. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Class Math Website

I have started revising the class math website.  Similar to the class website, I want the website to support student learning in and out of school.  What will I include?  How will I research for and design this website?

First, I'll clean up the current website.  I started by putting the titles that refer to the overall program along the top, while placing the specific unit topics along the side bar.

Next, I'll go through each page and clean up the organization and content information. I'll also look through my blog and collect the math posts, and place each post appropriately on the new website.

After that, I'll start the research including the following steps:
  1. Using Khan Math to review the grade level content this summer.  Like a student, I'll go through the whole grade level program.  That will help me help students with this great learning tool next fall.
  2. Reading a great math overview book--I've wanted to do that for some time, and I think this may be the summer I'll do that.
  3. Possibly taking a math course--The Massachusetts Department of Education offers many free summer courses, and I hope to get into one of those courses.
  4. Participating in #matchhats and reading math blogs.
Throughout the process, I'll think about the website from the learning communities point of view.  I'll try to make this website an easy to follow, student/family-friendly learning resource.

If you have any ideas for me as I revise this math resource, please let me know.  I'm looking forward to the endeavor. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TEAM Research #8: WeVideo Introdution

Students will use WeVideo to introduce their projects.  They'll create a one-minute teaser that includes the following steps and information.  As with most projects, I'm sure that students will take this initial introduction and make it much better than my simple start.

WeVideo is currently free for a less than terrific copy.  I purchased a membership for myself to play with it more, and hope to use PTO money to purchase a subscription for the class next year since like all the Google related tools, I think this tool has lots of promise.

Video Steps and Example:

  1. Make about 5-Google Draw slides with images and words. Download.
  2. Open WeVideo, Create New Project
  3. Upload Media (slides)
  4. Create Text Slides and Recordings--note that you have choices on the recording by choosing from the template choices
  5. Add Music
  6. Edit
  7. Show Teacher
  8. Make Corrections
  9. Show Teacher Again
  10. Publish on Class Show Site for School Assembly Presentation.

The Science of Making Videos

Project Learning Journey

TEAM Research: Coaching #7

How do we coach students' project work so that everyone meets the project requirements and learns a lot.

First, a class online schedule and coaching chart helps.  Teachers and students can access the charts online to identify the project steps, actions, and next-step feedback.  The class document allows all students and educators to stay abreast of the project from multiple view points.

Next, the use of collaborative tools such as Google Presentation allows teachers and students to have an ongoing dialogue with sound or text inside or next to the document. That's more personalized feedback than the class project document.

Finally, the important use of small group or one-to-one real time coaching and edits that encourage students along the project path by providing first hand comments, feedback, questions, and answers leads students forward.

Project BaseLearning (PBL) is no longer meeting a set of criteria and then getting a grade, instead it's an ongoing step-by-step process guided by criteria and coaching until every student and/or team has achieved their best possible work.

After that there's time for reflection and next-step planning as children continue their learning journey.

Research Journey Posts

TEAM Research Project Scope and Sequence
Set the Stage: Room Revision #1
Research Template #2
Substance #3
Just Right Challenge #4
First Edit #5
Revision #6

TEAM Research: Revision #6

As I looked over students' most recent research work, I realized that we have to push the presentation date out.  The information and project work is terrific demonstrating that the parameters of this project are positive--children are stretching and reaching as they research to find facts, photos, and maps.  And as I hoped, matching this research with a specific animal reservation or conservation area has prompted students to go on a virtual world tour looking at land maps, local landforms, animal habitats, reservation videos, and more.  The project is awakening them to worlds and work they didn't know about before.

Reluctantly, but purposefully, I pushed the project presentation date out by two weeks.  I don't want to rush this good learning. I want children to have more time to find the best facts, write good text, identify best images, design enticing film introductions, write engaging scripts, collaborate, and present with terrific voice, expression, and imagination.

Meeting the new criteria outlined in the MBAE report and other recent reports about dynamic learning takes time, intent, and revision--new learning is not a smooth road, but instead a twisty path as we reach for the project vision and strength. This is the kind of learning and work they will do in their future, and this is a good time to start their vigorous learning journey--a journey they'll continue throughout their life


As I think more about this project, I realize that this project and all new learning has implications for the work we do:

  • Implications for behavioral expectations and consequences.
  • Implications for classroom design
  • Implications for teacher time and schedules.
  • Implications for home-school connections.
  • Implications for current scope and sequences.
  • Implications for feedback and grading, coaching and response.

New learning requires change in the way we have always done things in school, and this change creates disruption.


Research Journey Posts
TEAM Research Project Scope and Sequence
Set the Stage: Room Revision #1
Research Template #2
Substance #3
Just Right Challenge #4
First Edit #5

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TEAM Research: First Edit #5

I just gave students' research presentations a first edit, and as expected there was a range of response from students who are nearing completion to those who have just started adding facts.  We've truly only worked on this for a couple of days, so I expected to get a variety of responses.

I created a coaching document which lists the group names and the edit priorities, and I added notes and questions to the presentation canvas (Google Presentation).

In light of their work, I created a new timeline for the project.  We're squishing it in a bit which is mostly due to the fact that the fourth grade standards and scope and sequence takes more than teaching year's time, and the fact that I have high standards for the project.  I'm not settling for a simple research project, but instead one with more depth.

The depth truly made the edits more interesting and the projects more accessible than a simple report of animal facts.

I continue to chart this project in detail so I can give it a thorough assessment once its complete so that I can grow and improve it for the year to come.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Learning Design: Center Stage

Learning design is taking center stage in my career.  How can I synthesize materials, tools, strategies, standards, and students' needs and interests to serve students well? is the central question for my professional work.

What does this mean for my professional work and growth?
  1. Stay up to date with current research, tools, and materials?
  2. Keenly observe and respond to my students.
  3. Be aware of system, state, and federal mandates and standards. 
In real time that means attention to current learning:
  • TEAM Research
  • Coding
  • USA Tour
  • ePortfolios
The attention includes lots of student meetings, edits, coaching, and guidance. 

Summer means updating websites, reviewing standards, and organizing lessons, units, and scope an sequences.

This is my primary focus when it comes to teaching children well. 

The Just Right Challenge: TEAM Research #4

I looked out at my young researchers wondering if the challenge was just right or a bit too steep.  There was some avoidance and procrastination going on which you don't see often when the task is well matched with interest, ability, and need.

Yet, reminded of Stager's warning a few years ago that we don't want to be teaching just secretarial skills, I thought about the project's breadth and decided to push on.  Yet, I also offered more help and some new avenues for completion

We want the project focus to be a good learning objective--one with some reach, but not so much reach that children become discouraged.

I'm still thinking about this project's aim, and in the meantime I'll read through the students' work so far to see where I can coach them with greater care.  Let's see where that takes us.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Google Presentation: A Learning Design Canvas

Google Presentation serves as a wonderful learning design canvas.

For example, I've started synthesizing my knowledge, experience, and research related to math models and elementary school learning. I opened a Google Presentation and began adding my ideas. I shared the ideas on a Google+ Math thread, and John Fitsioris, a Math Curriculum Developer, responded with some great suggestions. Then I woke up this morning with more ideas.

This presentation and a few more for The Wayland Institutes are due a month from now so I have time to play, explore, and create with my Google Presentation canvas--a canvas that makes it easy to edit,  move, demonstrate, synthesize, and present ideas in multiple, meaningful ways.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Learning Progression

I immerse myself in learning links, posts, conversations, and books that introduce me to nuggets of ideas that take root, intersect, and develop.

"Learning like Russian nesting dolls"




The ideas that pique my interest take hold, and eventually gain strength.

I've come to expect learning in all spheres to look like a child's first steps--a progression of approximations never fully realized, but always gaining strength when right process, curation, and care are added to the mix.

The key is to let the learning streams flow, and to rid the tributaries of new ideas and actions of old time obstacles--obstacles that we now realize to be anything but paths to learning.

Hence, in the months to come I'll cull the learning garden further by replacing old thought and outdated, unsupported actions with new, well-researched endeavor in an effort to provide a deeper, richer, more positive and beneficial learning experience to teach children well.

Update Classroom Communication

Typically my email inbox is sparse.

I try to keep the communication broad and frequent so the members of the learning community know what we've done, what we're doing, and what we plan to do. Hence there's usually little need for emails except for important, timely matters.

I use the following communication vehicles and patterns:

  • Twitter: Daily updates with a class hashtag: #team14hh and professional share. 
  • Professional Blog and Google+ : Professional reflection and share
  • Email: To announce newsletter updates, one-to-one correspondence, collegial share.
  • Newsletter Website: A Website that host regular newsletters, and provides a snapshot of the year.
  • Weekly Schedule (template example) Shared with all members of learning community: students, families, colleagues, and leaders. 

  • Website: A reference book for the class--a go to place for general class information and links.
  • Content Websites: Related to specific teaching and learning units. (example)
  • Class Blogs: Showcase blogs of student work and share. (example)
I analyzed this process last year and wrote the reflections in this blog post

Are your communication platforms and patterns similar?  What else do you use?  I noticed that Pernille Rip does a video newsletter which could be a great weekly addition particularly if students created and published the reports.

This is a good time of year to try out ideas for next year, and a good time of year to rethink, revise, and update communication patterns.

Friday, May 09, 2014

28 Days

Twenty-eight days left to the school year, and there's lots to to.

First, TEAM Research, Writing, and Presentation.

Next, Coding.

Ongoing, Skills: Reading and Math.

Also, Field Trips: Zoo, Animal Reserve, River Study

Special Events: School Picnic, Book Fair, Class Picnic.

Plate Tectonics Lessons via our local geologist.

There was a moment today when it was clear that we're at the last chapter--it's time to slow down, go deeper, and savor the learning and team we've enjoyed all year.  Onward!

TEAM Research: Substance #3

This is one reservation students are studying.  They used
translate tools to find out that La Tortuga Feliz means
"The Happy Turtle."
A child had tears.  Finding the right information was difficult.  "I'll help you," I answered, "this is challenging.  Take some time to think it over, and then let's talk the next school day about how I can help you."

Like many bright students in the early years, the learning has come easy to this child, and now this child faced a challenge.  I assessed the situation recognizing that this was not a bad challenge, in fact it was okay for this learner to struggle a bit as long as I helped her out and led her through the rough patch of really good research and project work.

Today's first day of research posed many teaching points. Teaching points we'll follow up with on Monday including the following:
1. More targeted reservation research using the template as a guide.
2. Adding reservation maps and images.
3. Editing reservation information with each team.

On Tuesday, we'll follow up by watching reservation videos that I have located, and writing introductions based on our video viewing.

Then on Wednesday, we'll put the final touches on the reservation work and leave some time to start the "virtual reality" section of the project which includes transforming the learning space into a space similar to the rainforest cafe or a cafe that looks like the habitat your reservation is in.

After that on Thursday we should be ready to start the animal research--the part the children are looking forward to most.

Related Posts (just click to link)
Team Guided Research
TEAM Research Posts
Room Revision 
Team Research Introduction 
Prep posts (to be added)