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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kristel - English Class at Jay H.S


On December 16, I visited Kristel's English class. They had been reading Chinese Cinderella, a great book.  Kristel, decided to focus her student's attention on the universal theme in the book by making a text to text connection with Machiavelli's The Prince.  She front loaded the session with information on Machiavelli and his book, using a variety of sources.  These were located on her class blog, Teaching in 201.  You will notice she used a variety of sources including NPR and google books.

During this section of the lesson students:

  1. made predictions based on the table of contents
  2. made connections between text to text, text to world, and text to self
  3. made connections between English class and history class
  4. made decisions in a pair/share format to prioritize and summarize a paragraph
  5. identified challenges in Machiavelli's text; vocabulary and syntax
  6. identified and applied the theme to their own lives
Next, Kristel had students apply this information to their own lives with the following point of view guide, adapted from Janet Allen's work



This was very successful.  The students were engaged and wrote without hesitation.

Bravo, Kristel.

Check on Kristel next week on Literacy and Technology Pilot, where she will be the featured educator of the week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Melissa - Art Class, Jay H.S.


On Tuesday, December 15, Melissa was working with her class on the cumulative art project on their last unit.  Melissa had assigned students a project that combined all of the basic art terms they had studied: Composition, Elements, and Principles.


 They were given the first part of the period to work on their projects as a warm up or front-loading for the assessment that would be given at the end of the class.  Melissa gave them the following concept sort for an assessment.






Finally, Melissa gave them a written assignment for evaluating their final project.  Notice she asks for rationale and meta-cognitive reflection.  Similar to writing, visual art requires the artist to be aware of their audience and their audiences' reaction.


Stay tuned.  Melissa will be sharing a reflection with us soon on the universal strategies shared by art and literacy.

Mike Henry, Social Studies Class at Jay H.S.


On Tuesday, I visited Mike in one of his college prep classes.  He is a reflective teacher with 39 years of experience.  He has been concerned with his students' focus on "learning to the test," their use of memorization to learn, and with the limitations of the textbooks he uses.  During our last class meeting he reviewed one of Janet Allen's triple entry journals and decided to give it a try.

He introduced the lesson by explaining the concern he has for them and their style of studying; memorization is the lowest form of learning.  He went on to explain he wants them to think about and develop an understanding of history and this can not be accomplished with rote memorization of isolated items.  Next he explained chapter 11 was one of the tougher chapters and he wanted to give them a thought process to try on this text.  He introduced the following template and then modeled a few examples for them.



Mike modeled thinking regarding:

The significance of  the 5 pillars for Moslems.
It made him wonder: He chose the pillar regarding giving to the poor and then connected to his own knowledge of tithing in other religions.
Next he decided to google the information on the internet and see if he could find an answer.
Now he thinks:  He did and shared it with the class.  Answer: 40th of their income.

The students were engaged and focused.  He reiterated he wanted them to just try this and consider the process for their learning.  They began working and he circulated around the room, supporting them as needed.

Shortly, the students debriefed.  This was the first time they had tried this exercise and their questions were not bad.  They were personal.  Mike commented on the questions suggesting why it was important information for them to have.  There were all levels.

After the discussion, Mike asked the students what they thought about the process.  The answers were surprising and telling.  One student said memorizing was not learning.  She had learned that in a previous school and much preferred this method.  Other students felt they enjoyed the exercise, but it took time away from time to prepare for the test.  Interestingly enough, Mike gives mostly essay tests.  Another student suggested she would use this activity as a pre-reading process at the beginning of a unit.  She found it interesting.

Mike is planning to use this exercise as she suggested, allowing students to share the new material (it must be outside of the textbook) with the class periodically and then providing extra points on the test at the end of the unit for those who can answer questions regarding the extra info.

During the final discussion, the question of the validity of information was raised.  Several students wondered if they should rely on peers to locate and share information or if they would prefer finding it themselves.  Mike guided them during the discussion to consider how to validate information on the internet as well as information presented by professors and colleagues once they enter college.

Students were engaged and enthusiastic during this portion of the lesson.  They seemed eager to hear about college and learn some strategies for preparing them for the next big step in their lives.

Celebration!! Mt. Blue!!


It is time to celebrate at Mt. Blue.  During this coaching cycle, colleagues coached one another.  The coaches will be completing their training in March.  Along with the training, they have focused on their roles as Literacy Leaders and staff development in their school.

Below, each post for Mt. Blue will include a quick overview of the lesson and then areas commented on by the coach working with the peer this year.

Kudos to all for working so hard and being committed to what is best for students.

Meadow - English Class


On Monday, Sam and I visited Meadow's English class.  She had decided to use her question game format and adjust it for revision conferencing.  Her focus was on having her students: 1.) use reader response to formulate questions for writers struggling with specific pieces and 2.) engaging writers in revision through developing audience awareness.  Meadow required her students to select a piece of writing they were finding difficulty writing.  They were to read their pieces to their group and then to share their struggles with them.  Next the listeners in the group were to write three questions based on their responses and the reflection of the author.  Finally, they were to report out to the author.   Meadow got the students started and then circulated among the groups, providing support where needed.

Meadow tried this format for the first time with us sitting in the room.  Bravo, Meadow.


Sam commented on:
1.  the clear concise introduction of the lesson
2.  the steps outlined for the exercise
3.  the focus of this lesson for this particular group
4.  the high level of conversation during the conferencing
5.  the clarifying comments made to assist students
6.  Meadow's ability to access higher level thinking with this group

Melody - English Class

On December 14, Maureen and I visited Melody's English class.  The class is made up of a small group of advanced students.  They are about to study Mac Beth.  Like many teachers, Melody is concerned with her students' ability to infer and interpret the universal themes in classical texts.  She chose to use an anticipation guide in order to allow students the opportunity to connect and focus on the themes.  Here is her anticipation guide.


Melody handed these out to students and had them mark their before opinions.  Next, she had them position themselves on the appropriate side of the board.


As Melody projected the statements on the board, students selected their positions and then were asked their rationale for their choice.  Melody was totally noncommittal - skillfully encouraging each student to participate.  After listening to the discussions, students were able to change their opinions.








 Melody was totally noncommittal - skillfully encouraging each student to participate.  After listening to the discussions, students were able to change their opinions.



The discussion was intense, thoughtful, and demonstrated a high level of metacognition.




Maureen commented on:
1.  the high level of student engagement
2.  the benefit of observing these students (she knows in various contexts) in English class
3.  the benefit of setting up a before, during, and after framework for students with this anticipation guide
4.  the high level of metacognition when students asked questions, reflected on wording, make connections, explained their perspectives
5.  the benefit of helping students look through each other's perspectives    

Jake - Physics Class


On Thursday, I visited Jake B.’s physics class with Dan R., his coach. Jake had chosen to try the Cornell note taking system in conjunction with a three level study guide  – incorporating the Question, Answer Response outlined by Raphael. Jake has been helping his students find the most effective way of learning the material they are presented in order to prepare them for college. He presented this information to his students within this context. However, this time, he had the students apply this format to the physics textbook. Jake had decided to do this after observing the students struggle with the text. Since this class is a pre-college group, Jake is focusing on helping them develop their ability to read and comprehend longer, more context text – similar to those they will be required to read at the college level. He discusses the rationale for this lesson openly with the students as he begins the lesson.  Here is the study guide he displayed on his LCD and each student had as a copy.


Jake presented the lesson to the students, clarifying the level of questions, and then had them work independently as he circulated around the room providing individual support where needed – at the appropriate level. He is clear and specific with his support. He has  had his students work on prioritizing and summarizing their material for some time. Consequently, many of them took to this automatically and did an excellent job. The students Jake worked with are mostly those not as familiar with the text structure and text features of this particular text. Jake addressed this by suggesting what he did when he is deals with text.

The connection I made while watching Jake teach, was the  problem solving aspect of the lesson,  including the link he had included on his study guide for students to try out their solutions with a simulation.  For me, it demonstrated some of the new research on using engineering to teach problems solving as well as Costa's work on habits of the mind: thinking flexibly and striving for accuracy.

Dan commented on:
1.  the high level of student engagement
2.  the overall learning behavior of this group - he has many of the same students
3. the excellent integration of technology in the class
4. other possible opportunities for technology
5. the use of positive reinforcement to focus students and encourage appropriate behavior, i.e. the use of skype in class
6. the students' and teachers' use of strategic language applied to metacognition

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jim - History Class

On December 10, Hattie and I visited Jim's history class.  Jim has a student teacher and they have been planning a unit on the Constitution. Jim is an excellent mentor. Students were going to read the Constitution.  Jim had set the stage for this by providing them with a context - the connections to Europe - as well as a study guide written by his student teacher.  After reviewing the first part of the guide, Jim had them use the GIST to summarize and categorize various sections - familiarizing them with the text structure as well.  Students broke into groups and collaborated. 
Hattie commented on:
1.  the high level of student engagement
2.  the personal connections students made
3.  the students' sense of trust and safety, allowing them to risk being wrong
4.  the higher level thinking strategies students were using
5.  Jim's individualized support of students
6.  Jim's positive feedback for all responses
7.  Jim's clarifying comments and questions

Jo's Math Class

On December 10,  Beth and I visited Jo's math class.  Jo decided to use the Cornell Note Taking method as a guide for reading the beginning of a unit.  On the previous day, Jo made a presentation to the class regarding the procedure and purpose of this method.  The guide she used is on the left.  Students had begun work on the assignment the previous day and finished it for homework.  Jo required the students to limit their cues to questions.

Jo guided the sharing of individual student responses.  She built collaboration and problem solving strategies when she asked, "Does anyone else have anything to add?", "Does everyone agree?", and "What is your rationale?".  Together students shared their thinking and clarified their understanding.  Jo acted as the experts and pointed out several areas of confusion, giving the class a heads up to possible difficulties - including textbook structure. 

She brought the session to a close by asking students to evaluate this method of learning for them and inviting them to think about what worked best for them.

Beth commented on
1.  the use of effective student language during the pair/share format
2.  the students' high level of engagement
3.  the students' ability to reflect on their thinking when using the Cornell Notes
4.  Jo's analogy of the game of jeoporady to guide students' understanding to formulate questions
5.  Jo's reflection on the use of these strategies in her classroom
6.  Jo's goal to prepare her students for college
7.  Jo's focus on comprehending, understanding the many math symbols and terms

Lisa - Senior Spanish Class


     On December 14, I began the day with Lisa in her Spanish class. This group is very high level - mostly seniors. Today, Lisa divided the class into two groups. Several students - one listener and one speaker - were working in the hall with a student teacher reviewing their use of speaking Spanish while asking and answering questions. In class, Lisa was weaving reading, speaking, listening, and writing together skillfully as she prepared the group for their next steps. This inclued a vocabulary review, introducing a word sort, and giving the students a writing assignment - retelling stories they had read. Lisa did all of this skillfully as always.
     Our ahha came during our debriefing as we discussed her recent instructional choices. She had noticed her students were struggling with some of their reading and had moved back to an easier level. As she talked about her decision - matching instruction to the class - we clarified the challenge. Her students were having problems with nonfiction text. Many high school students are challenged by nonfiction text structures. When dealing with a foreign languague, the problem is compounded by different text pattern of the sentence and the foreign language. We brainstormed several ways to help students by having them look at text features first, predict what the text might cover, and then identify and use the text structure to zero in on the layout of the big ideas and supporting details.
     Kudos to Lisa. Many of our best students stumble and fall at the college level because they can not deal with a variety of text structures and dense concepts during their freshman year.
    Stay tune. Lisa will get back to us

Therese and Her Science Class

 On December 10, 2009, Matt and I visited Therese's science class.  The students would be working on five kingdoms.  Therese had outlined a project that would help her students organize and comprehend the infomration in their texts.  Like most classes, these students were challenged by the dense concepts, organization, and higher reading level of the science textbook.  Therese supplements the text with information and scaffolds the students' use of the text in a variety of ways - i.e. scavenger hunts, study guides, etc.  Today, she decided to use an anticipation guide to outline the steps of the project and the rubric that would be used to evaluate their work.  Her goal was to set a purpose for teading - understanding the connections  between the big ideas and the supporting information in this unit.  She reviewed the anticipation guide with her students and then they began.  Therese circulated around the room helping individual students as needed.  Students shared their responses as a group and asked clarifying questions.  Therese asked them to rate this process and they decided it helped.
Matt commented on: 
1.  the high level of student engagement
2.  the success of the guide demonstrated by student response
3.  the skillful use of  frontloading and think alouds by Therese
4.  the quality of the questions
5.  the effective conclusion of the lesson
6.  the use of technology - inspiration for mapping - as outlined in the project (a great tool for mapping connections among ideas)