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Because….books.

Love this idea from Cult (and am jealous of her cute little hair flippy-do)! To my ELA local peeps–if you have ideas about books we can share with a middle level/YA book club, I think we should do some home-grown discussions. One of our issues is the…

BOOK ROOM!

So…how about we take some time, meet over appetizers and beverages, and figure out just what do we have, what digital resources we have, how to get audio books, etc. for our students? Our best brains work better together, and mapping out what our students need and want (even if they don’t know it yet) would be invaluable. Consider yourself tagged!

 

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Grades gone wild…

The Keys @k.c.love

Cult of Pedagogy turned my attention to this fantastic post by Arthur Chiaravalli, “Teachers Going Gradeless.” 

Gratitude for my PLN for helping me stay fresh, excited and wise: things have been tricky at my school recently, and while we’re on spring break I am determined to relax, dangit. Refresh, Renew. All that good stuff. People are worried about me (turns out middle school girls and boys think I’m crying when I am having a hot flash–thanks, menopause). I was beginning to get a little worried about myself: have I taught them enough? Is testing going to be okay? Will the boy who won’t allow me to help him be a better reader be okay? Will that girl who has given up on herself understand that we won’t give up on her?

Perhaps this may be the simple answer to those complex, emotional questions: as we strive to allow for our students to be independent, the most obvious path is the timeless practice of self-assessment. Their emotional responses to learned helplessness and inner-dialogue of shame may be cooled by simply allowing them the space that they are in more control than they believe. 

Things on teachers’ minds must be washed and dried before break ends–otherwise, it’s not a break. So just in the nick of time here are some ideas about having students self-assess. Chiaravelli draws from the great minds of pedagogy:

Drawing on the research of Ruth Butler, Dylan Wiliam, John Hattie, Daniel Pink, Carol Dweck, Alfie Kohn, Linda McNeil, Linda Mabry, Maja Wilson and countless others, we are teachers who are convinced that teaching and learning can be better when we grade less.

For some of us, the word gradeless means to grade less, that is, limiting the impact of grades within the context of current constraints. Some are just trying to get away from toxic assessment and grading practices, like assessments with no opportunity to redo or retake or zeroes on the mathematically disproportionate 100-point scale.

Okay, cool. I have always allowed for redos, and never marked things down for being late, etc. Okay. Instincts without research don’t mean anything – so he provides the research.

What my grading practices are now:
  1. Non-negotiable assignments:
    • Weekly Vocabulary worth 50 points
      • If they don’t turn it in, it goes in zero and missing in Skyward.
      • They have one to two weeks to turn it in and receive full points. I never mark down work simply for being late, and never have.
      • Positive: Once they see they are in control of their non-negotiables and have choice and flexibility,  they get in a routine of learning and diving into new words.
      • Negative: Students still don’t understand that the zero, which is horrible but the only way they and their parents pay attention or get a notification, can be easily remedied by doing the work. I will ask other students in the class who have turned things in late and subsequently turn them in, and their grade changes, to share that with the class. In addition, I still need to track students down.
  2. Grading every two weeks as required.
  3. Grading assessments (especially the Common Formative Assessments created by our ELA PLC 8th grade as ‘no count.’
How are they evolving:
  1. I created a unit/module in Canvas called “Top Ten Things” for ELA. Its intended purpose allows for student flexibility: if they are done with something, they can explore ten lessons in a ‘flipped’ way.
    • Positive: Students who seek them out enjoy doing them as “extra credit.”
    • Allows for self-exploration and questions– great opportunity for metacognition and independent work.
    • Negative: Students have been confused — understandable. These absolutely require my guidance, and that’s fine. Another issue is students requiring more guidance than time allows. After the break this is something I will address.
  2. Provided a ‘create your own rubric lesson’ in the fall: this is a concept I plan on bringing back this spring after the break.
  3. Allowing students to assess student work—now that there is student work to share based on current projects!
Next level:
  1. Paraphrasing and crafting metrics and rubrics based on CCSS, standardized assessments (from the OSPI/SBA)
  2. Crafting choice projects/burning questions metrics based on CCSS
  3. Crafting and self-assessing on both low stakes and high stakes assignments they create and produce.
  4. Continuing to provide curriculum maps to students — visible checklists to help guide them.
Clarifying goals:

The second finding comes from John Hattie (2012) whose synthesis of 800 meta-studies showed that student self-assessment/self-grading topped the list of educational interventions with the highest effect size. By teaching students how to accurately self-assess based on clear criteria, teachers empower them to become “self-regulated learners” able to monitor, regulate, and guide their own learning. The reason students never develop these traits is that our monopoly on assessment, feedback, and grading has trained students to adopt an attitude of total passivity in the learning process.

 

Let us all “grade less” so students can learn more. Just like in any creative pursuit, the linear qualities of rubrics do not have to constrain, but to guide.

PS Not sure where I found this:

This could be a good approach to student-created rubrics.
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Information overload.

Copyright Learning Fundamentals
Copyright Learning Fundamentals

 

In a recent story on NPR, ‘Information Overload and the Tricky Art of Single-Tasking,’ there is a link to an Infomagical challenge–making information overload disappear. My relationship analogy with technology feels that the more tech I have/use, my lungs have de-evolved from breathing air to turning into gills. I am so submerged in this soup I don’t even know I’m swimming in it anymore. My focus is fractured to the point I may need to take drastic, heat-pressure methods to reform my brain cells into more granite-like thinking. Even this post is tough to write: I installed Grammarly, and it’s constantly green/red lighting my typing, editing as I go:

"No, I don't mean girls. I mean gills."
“No, I don’t mean girls. I mean gills.”

Chasing the purple dragon of ‘the perfect app’ is like lassoing a bubble. There’s always something new, shiny, and fleeting. In this post, I shall attempt to currate some old and new favorites. Some of these items are the equivalent to Russian nesting dolls– stacked inside one another.

Stopping the Noise:

Freedom– if you need time to turn off those ‘quick check-ins’ to Facebook, etc. install Freedom. It was recommended to be by a ‘real writer’ – someone who’s published multiple titles.

Big Lists:

Cult of Pedagogy’s post:

WriteAbout, Google Cardboard, Versal, Noisli, Formative, and Periscope.

I have used John’s WriteAbout, and have made attempts to get other teachers/district to use it too, but there have been obstacles. We are on overload right now, methinks. Maybe I’ll try again, because last year was crowded with others agendas.

As far as Versal goes, we are piloting Canvas, and have used e-learning. Personally I prefer UX designs like Versal or Edmodo better, but it any online platform seems fine.

Trying Out:

  • Screenshot–app for iphones and ipads — annotate, etc. screen shots
  • Screenchomp
  • AURASMA
  • Chomp–very silly–just entertaining
  • Talkboard–going to try this and record lessons
  • Gaia GPS/Topo Maps–cool way to look at maps

Already Love:

Student brought me food.
Student brought me food.
  • Word Swag- -makes pretty little posters from your photos
  • Snapseed–easy photo editing tools
  • Voila–easy screen recordings for lessons/flipped classroom
  • Dark Sky–well designed interface for the weather
  • Sky Guide–feel like you’re floating through the universe. I get vertigo when I point it at the ground and realize there’s only the earth between me and the universe.

Who am I kidding? I’m not qualified to curate diddly-squat at the moment. During this time, not only do I have Grammarly spying on me, but the laundry is on repeat wrinkle-guard, I’ve read 5 articles on the supreme court issue and new appointee, hit the like button on a few Facebook posts, changed to jammie pants (it’s mid-winter break), watched Principal Gerry videos, sent one email, and thought about “all the stuff I have to/want to do” over break.

Sigh. Maybe it’s time I take the Infomagical challenge, too. I did go to a good, solid old-fashtion art supply store the other day near the UW campus when we met our older son for lunch. It was like going through a time machine for me. I did end up with a box of goodies to take back to the classroom, but even creative-crafty stuff requires focus:

IMG_2234
Annotated with Screenshots

 

And of course, who doesn’t need a plague mask?

IMG_2233

Maybe that’s what we need: plague masks filled with herbs to keep us focused on single thoughts, doing them well and mindfully. Let me go find some paints, brushes, and oh look a text…

…time to use one of my 12 list making apps and start checking stuff off.

Ultimately, what is all this used for? To keep me engaged as well as develop engaging instruction–that’s it. If it doesn’t suit those purposes, perhaps it’s time to tech-purge.

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The core.

core of apple

 

Whereby I confess my most egregious professional sins and meditate, lighting candles to Grant, Wiggins, and Burke, in order to get my head back on right. And a favor: please do not make assumptions about where I’m going with this, and be honest with yourself–it is a rare human who’s never experienced a pang of professional jealousy, or ‘me-too-itis.’ 

This may be my new favorite teacher-writer: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com

And yes, she takes a great headshot. 

Dang, I am jealous. Straight up. Confessing. Green monster. Yuck.

But…this is when I get things moving forward again.

Jennifer Gonzalez writes the blog, Cult of Pedagogy and I’m having one of those ‘where has this been all my life?’ moments. Writes posts that I wish I had written, says the difficult things I wish I was brave enough to discuss. But now I’m going to lay it out on the table – one of her posts resonated so deeply for me this year, it is a mental grout of my brain tiles. (Oof- that is a horrible metaphor. Sorry. Told you I was off my game.) In her article, Gut-Level Teacher Reflection, she asks five intense questions that dig deeply into our constructs of what and who we are. 

1. Look around your classroom (or picture it in your mind). What parts of the room make you feel tense, anxious, or exhausted? What parts make you feel calm, happy, or proud?

2. Open up your plan book (or spreadsheet, or wherever you keep your lesson plans from the year) and just start browsing, paying attention to how you’re feeling as your eyes meet certain events. What days and weeks give you a lift when you see them, a feeling of pride or satisfaction? Which ones make you feel disappointed, irritated or embarrassed?

3. Take a look at your student roster. What do you feel when you see each name? Which names make you feel relaxed, satisfied and proud, which ones make your chest tighten with regret, and which ones make your stomach tense?

4. Mentally travel from classroom to classroom, picturing each teacher in the building. What are your feelings as you approach each one? Which coworkers give you a generally positive feeling, which ones are neutral, and which ones make you feel nervous, angry, or annoyed?

5. Look at the following professional practice “buzzwords.” As you read each one, do you have positive, negative, or mixed feelings? What other words have you heard a lot this year that give you a strong feeling one way or the other?

  • technology
  • differentiation
  • data
  • research-based strategies
  • Common Core
  • higher-level thinking
  • flip

Okay, let’s see: No. 1 – yes, my room needs some deep purging. I can do that. I may even go in this afternoon. Many best laid plans of conferencing areas, writing nooks, and comfortable reading and discussion areas fell by the wayside.

No. 2: With the directives I was given this year I learned some tough lessons. Be careful of other’s visions if the vision is embedded in negativity. Never again will I miss the subtext of someone who is inherently a doomsayer and offers little or no insight or collaborative, positive steps forward. I know and have proven I know time and again what engages students, how to embed purpose, relevance, and authentic self-esteem in constructing knowledge.

Moving on.

No. 3: What causes me anxiety is when I know, with clarity and dismay, that many of my students don’t receive the services they require, even though I pound loudly at the admin door. There is a lot of rhetoric, but not much action, and occasionally I feel I end up mocked for my efforts to try to get children real and true help. Recognizing this is one of my core values serves my efforts to continue to make as many connections with parents as possible. That’s the only way when leadership isn’t available.

No. 4: Ah, coworkers. Yes, there is one or two that cause me anxiety, but overall, my colleagues are amazing, supportive, intelligent and wise, and I know they feel the same about me. I only feel anxiety when I think I’m being compared unfairly to a new rock star on the block, and not being seen for who I am. This, to me, is one of the sins of administration –playing favorites. It was said to me, “Why don’t you teach like so and so? ” this year. That is the mark of a dysfunctional leader.

No. 5: Buzzwords? Not a problem.

There is another fuzzy-monster I need to squash. I have been honored to know John Spencer for approximately 6 or 7 years in a virtual collegial dialogue. He recently announced he’s leaving the classroom to become a professor, a trajectory I thought I might be able to do years ago.

Here’s the thing: he is amazing, creative, and has gotten out there and made it happen. He created lectures, presentations, blogs, websites, books: created and produced his dreams with the love of his family and friends. That is how it’s supposed to work. Now I am doing some hard thinking about my own trajectory, and what I want, need, and where I can provide the greatest service for students with my strengths. 

What derails us, and how do we get back on track? Well, perhaps, for me, when I am not brave or honest, or forgive myself, with grace, when life events take precedence over the perfectly-planned lesson or the standing ovation observation. I give a lot of myself to my husband, sons, and students. I am greatly looking forward to this summer when I can nourish my own creativity and purge the unnecessary or cumbersome. Funny, ‘cumbersome’ does not come in the form of too much paper or outdated files, but in emotions: it’s time to clean up any residual mental mold, and be proud and happy I know such wonderful colleagues, and they know me. 

ripe red apple with green leaf isolated on white

To summer!

PS Next post: my reading list…