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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Learning Paths: School Year 2014-2015

Note: As I look at the path below I see that some goals were met with ease while others have not been met for multiple reasons. I will carry over this structure to next year's path to lead goal setting and efforts. 

Multiple learning paths await school year 2014-2015 as the world of learning continues to evolve at an amazing pace. Recently I learned of our school-wide goals which prompted me to update this post to reflect both those goals and my classroom goals.

The year will be led by these overarching questions, questions I will incorporate into the learning design for each unit:
  • Rationale and Relevance: How do I make the learning relevant to students’ interests and needs, and how do I design, choose, and impart tasks with and for students that have a meaningful rationale? Typically embedding relevant student, community, national, and world events/information into standards-based units provides both rationale and relevance
    • Relevance has occurred in many places including our double-class service learning project related to a child's family, using numbers/facts related to science study for math work, and using students' interests in technology to motivate math learning i.e. the movie making contest. Also, the marble maze project and cardboard challenge relate well to students' need and desire to explore, build, and investigate. Students are looking forward to more outdoor exploration and learning too as better weather arrives.
  • Organization and Procedure: How can I work with students to create classroom systems that promote autonomy and independence leaving time for the valuable independent, student-to-student, and student-teacher learning efforts? Creating protocols, routines, and systems with students at the start of the year will create student investment, understanding, ownership, and effective effort with regard to all classroom organization and procedural work.
    • While we have multiple systems in place, I want to shore up this area in the weeks to come as noted in this post. Recent student-teacher meetings have instituted more processes to meet this goal.
  • Encouragement and Response: How will I use formal and informal feedback to motivate and encourage students' continued perseverance, engagement, empowerment, and effective effort related to practice, progress, and mastery of curriculum goals and students' individual inquiry and needs? A blend of student-teacher conversation, response to assessments, student-teacher goal setting, learning path creation, and reflection provides the kinds of encouragement and response that empower and encourage students.
    • The classroom has taken on a "conversation" format, lessons typically begin with an introduction that keeps the conversation going. The lessons also end with summary and the continued conversation. The conversation is about learning well and the specific topics we're learning about. It's a give-and-take. This conversation extends to the weekly newsletter, daily home study page updates, individual and small group feedback, test assessment, and more. Students know I care and they know I'm working for their best interests. Let the conversation continue. . .
  • Cognitive Support: How do I make space in the teaching/learning program to support a range of student-driven efforts related to their personal inquiry/needs and curriculum goals? Setting up the room, websites, and the schedule so that online/offline learning tools, materials, and supports are easily understood and readily accessible sets the stage for differentiated, personalized, beneficial cognitive support.
    • Like the focus on conversation above, this area is also part of the conversation. I'm continually asking, 'What do you need, want, and desire?" and I'm continually trying new strategies to find the best strategies for each learner. The learners are comfortable with me and lead me in this regard as well. This focus is an area of continued emphasis and development.
During the next year, our study will focus on the following main points:
  • Healthy Relationships This too is part of the ongoing conversation and daily events 
    • Employing the "Learning to Learn" Curriculum to establish a strong learning community.
    • Using Open Circle, the Biography Framework, and as needed social skills teaching and discussions to strengthen and promote classroom community and individuals' social skills.
    • Working with a teaching coach/mentor and colleagues to develop this program with strength and in response to students' needs. 
  • Evaluation This effort is strongly in place in all regards. 
    • Incorporating regular informal and formal assessment to assess students' needs and accomplishments.
    • Keeping an easy-to-access and share document of assessment data for all students.
    • Partaking in collegial discussions related to assessment results to develop individual and grade-level skill, concept, and knowledge. 
  • Achievement Gap We continue to work on this area trying multiple strategies and informal assessment. We are making progress, but there's room for greater progress. 
    • Leveling the learning/teaching playing field for all students by making sure that every student has the support needed to learn well at school and at home.  
    • Use the start-of-the-year learning community surveys to identify needs. 
    • Provide email, video, Skype, and/or Google Hangout home study support to those who will profit from it. 
    • Help students to access needed tech equipment, WIFI, and other resources to support home study needs. Work in conjunction with tech department on this effort.
    • Work closely with family members and others in the learning community to support individuals' learning needs and interests. 
  • RTI This area has profited greatly from collegial efforts and share. So far so good. 
    • Working with the grade-level team and designated leaders/coaches on system determined goals and activities. 
    • Employing the results of RTI work in classroom endeavor and evaluation. 
  • Technology Technology is fully embedded into all aspects of our teaching/learning work. 
    • Employing technology in apt ways to develop students' accessibility and success with the system-wide curriculum.
To reach these system-wide goals as well as students' learning confidence and success I will emphasize the following points: This too is part of the daily conversation, and working to inspire and develop learners with strength. 
  • We are all capable of learning.
  • To learn well means that we have to set goals, design paths, identify needs, access resources, strategize, act, assess, revise, and reflect.
  • Our learning, contribution to the community, and ability to navigate challenge and opportunity gain strength from the study of famous pioneers, inventors, explorers, and survivors today and in the past. 
  • A strong foundation of concept, knowledge, and skill in the areas of math and science will prepare us well for our future study, work, and living. 
The paths for 2014-2015 are beginning to take shape in the following ways.

Teacher Prep: Charting the Course

Community We have started all these efforts, but there's still room for growth and is an important focus of our November/December work. 
  • As a learning team, the students and I will build our community protocols, rules, routines, and environment. 
  • We will think of our team as a system (a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole) and draw models of our team as a system noting the parts, whole, and how we rely on each other for our main function which is learning. We will also entertain other grade level unifying themes by discussing these questions:
    • How will we change throughout the year?
    • How is our team similar to other fifth grade teams in our school and elsewhere?
  • Early year assessments and surveys will be completed by students, families, and teachers. 
  • Students will learn about and contribute to the team resources including the class website. 
  • We'll focus on classroom character,  apt collaboration attributes, system-wide core values and school values
Learning to Learn Paths
Students will have the chance to design their own learning paths soon for our Science Ted Talk projects. 
  • Students will engage in multiple exercises that teach children the many ways they can successfully learn.
  • Design Your Own Learning Path: An effort to engage every child in designing a first learning path related to their individual passion and interest. A learning path similar to the creativity days we've done in the past. Identifying needed resources, time, and space will be part of the overall initial work in this regard. Students will use backward design as their approach to this path. Students will create websites to host their Learning Path Projects. 
  • Learning Dispositions: Students will study and practice the dispositions that lead to optimized learning. 
Math Paths
Math has been the mainstay of classroom efforts, and students are making great gains in all the areas below. Time is the compromising factor here--we simply run out of time to do it all. 

Science: STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, and Math)
The cardboard challenge project was a great start to this. Again, time is a compromising factor with regard to all we can do, but we'll catch up as the year goes along in all of these areas. 
Service Learning:
Students are highly motivated in this regard and we have made a strong start with multiple service learning projects and connections. 

We will end the year with a student driven math/science/reading service learning project that embeds important learning from the year. This will provide students an opportunity to practice, apply, process, and reflect. 

As I look forward to working with so many bright science and math students next year, I'm eager to continue to fill in the missing pieces of this year-long learning design. I welcome any thoughts, ideas, or resources you may have in this regard. 

Note: I suspect this post will continue to evolve as the program plans take shape--stay tuned :)