Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Solve the Groupwork Puzzle: Beyong the Jigsaw

Learning in a social context, as argued by theorists Vygotsky and Bandura, is essential for our students, but how do we foster that in our classrooms when positively and constructively contributing to a group's progress is not necessarily an innate skill?

To avoid the common group dynamic pitfalls, consider explicit instruction and deliberate instructional choices to model and enhance these essential skills.

The Key to Collaborative Learning:  This article offers a common-sense approach to empowering your students to be collaborative listeners, learners, and co-creators. Along with why collaboration matters and how to nurture collaboration in your classroom, the classroom strategies below will help you to guide students as they learn to be constructive co-thinkers and co-creators. The ones with the asterisks are easily digitized via GoogleDocs!

Strategies to Develop Collaborative Skills (without sacrificing rigorous content):
  • Assign Specific Roles*: Give a job description to each member as you begin collaborative work. Graduate to more challenging collaboration by giving students their group challenge and have them determine 1) what 'work' needs to be done, 2) which 'roles' should do what and 3) when the 'work' needs to be done by. They can also commit to their roles with a group contract.
  • Big Paper and Grafitti Boards: to help students “hear” each other’s ideas, to introduce a new topic or to help students organize prior knowledge about content they are about to study/discussion. I prefer it as a silent activity FIRST to ensure that students are primed for a more powerful class discussion.
  • Cafe Conversations*: help students practice perspective-taking by requiring students to represent a particular point-of-view in a small group discussion. (Identity charts can be digital). 
  • Fishbowl Conversations: This strategy is especially useful when you want to make sure all students participate in the discussion, when you want to help students reflect on what a “good discussion” looks like, and when you need a structure for discussing controversial or difficult topics.
  • Gallery Walks: One my FAVORITE protocols where students explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room.  Teachers often use this strategy as a way to have students share their work with peers, examine multiple historical documents, or respond to a collection of quotations. I often use mystery texts to get students to form questions to drive our unit of study.
  • Learn to Listen/Listen to Learn*: helps students develop their discussion skills, particularly their ability to listen to one another. It is especially useful when trying to discuss controversial topics (Journal reflections can be digital)
  • Online Discussion Forums*: provide a space for all students to be heard without being interrupted. Think about using your current online presence or a GoogleDoc!
  • Save the Last Word for Me*: clearly defined structure helps shy students share their ideas and ensures that frequent speakers practice being quiet (Step 2 can be digital)
  • Town Hall Circle: to provide a space for community members to share their perspective on a topic of concern
Assessing Collaborative Work: Great Resource on Collaborative Work 
We communicate what really matters to our students by assessing them on it... Getting the assessment right of collaborative projects is critical. Decisions about how to structure the assessment of group work need to be focused around four factors:

        1. Will you be assessing the product, the collaborative process or both?
        2. What is the success criteria and who says so?
        3. Who is the assessor - lecturer, student or both? 
        4. Who gets the marks - individuals or the group?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rediscovering Curiosity




Makerspace, tinkering, and PBL are terms currently in educational fashion. Beyond the jargon, the movement to reintroduce skills necessary to define an issue, brainstorm, prototype rapidly, and refine a custom solution is BACK, baby! In the video above, you can see Caine using all of these skills as he continuously improves his home-grown arcade.

Looking to recreate these kinds of project-based opportunities for your learners? Check out these resources:


The Deep Dive: This is a great model to help define problem-based, solutions-oriented thinking...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Argumentation Strategies for ALL ages...

The new Missouri Learning Standards are rife with references to the ability to write arguments, support claims, evaluate others' analyses of topics, and use valid reasoning in a range of conversations and collaborations. Below, find classroom activities to support student growth in the area of reasoned argumentation, along with a few digital tools to enhance the use of evidence to substantiate claims.

Classroom Argumentation Protocols:
SPARring Practice: Spontaneous argumentation format where students have to frame an argument in one minute and then react quickly to their opponents’ ideas.  This strategy helps students practice using evidence and examples to defend a position.

Stand and Decide (Variation on Four Corners): While the examples given in the link are intended for  secondary students, age-appropriate controversial questions are the driving force behind this activity. Great distributed practice for evidence-based claims that heighten student engagement (without major loss of in-class time).

BarometerEngaging in a barometer activity can be an effective pre-writing exercise before an essay assignment because it gets many arguments out on the table. Excellent for our more active learners!

DIGITAL TOOLS to Support Building Strong Arguments:

Google Apps for Education: Google Drawing is another great opportunity to build evidence-based arguments in a visual way. Read more on how to here!



Pro-Con It- This social-media tools allows you/your students to pose a question, add evidence for or against it, and then VOTE. There's even an option to open votes up to the whole WWW! Talk about authentic audience.


DebateGraph-Concept mapping + online collaboration + evidence-based reasoning = awesome arguments! Even the WhiteHouse is in on the 'visual debate' bandwagon.













Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Are we asking the WRONG questions?


 "What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question." - Jonas Salk

As inquiry-based learning continues to gain traction, we revisit what makes a "good" question. Sharing the role of 'QUESTION ASKER' with our students can transform learning in your classroom. Below, the TED talk and resources from the Right Question Institute show the power of learners' discovery through questioning. Learn more about the theory here and see how an elementary math classroom is transformed.

Here is a list of the questions the students asked during the activity:
  1. Is a trapezium a 3D figure?
  2. How many faces, edges, and vertices are in a trapezoid?
  3. Who made up a parallelogram?
  4. Does a parallelogram and a trapezoid have the same amount of sides?
  5. What do the arrows mean?
  6. What are the attributes for a trapezoid?
  7. Why do trapezium and trapezoid have the same first 6 letters?
  8. Does the pronunciation of the words effect the relationship?
  9. What does a parallelogram look like?
  10. What do trapeziums, trapezoids, and parallelograms have in common?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why don't they just make a tool for that? Check out these Teachers who decided to DIY!

Teacherpreneurs meet Shark Tank in a Pitchfest Sponsored by 4.0 Schools. 

In a proposal competition, teachers created their ultimate time-saving digital tools to provide powerful instruction using modern solutions. Evaluated by a panel of educators, the winner would be selected based on criteria such as how easily a product could be incorporated into their classrooms, how much instruction they would need, whether it would help them work smarter or harder and what they would be willing to pay for it. Several of these are already funded and up and running!!

Consider following 4.0 Schools' blog- That's where I found another amazing tool not featured on CNN-- "Because" (video below). The tool you've just been WAITING for might already be there!

The ideas featured on CNN this AM include:

Fantasy Geopolitics- A fantasy-football style competitive learning program to foster high engagement in modern political issues.

Borne Digital- An e-reader that adapts to each student's reading level based on periodic assessments, allowing children at different levels to read the same book... you read that right!

Branching Minds- The creator points to her own frustrations as motivation for developing this tool-- struggling with the magnitude of reasons that underlie each particular student’s struggles and wading through the infinite number of learning supports available. Her solution in her own words: "It’s WebMD’s Symptom Checker meets Amazon’s Marketplace, but for all one’s learning needs."  

SmartestK12- An online platform that lets teachers transform documents into digital assignments. Drop question right into an old PDF, collect the data from students' answers, set up auto-grading to create instant feedback and differentiated tasks based on performance. 



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Don't let a few (thousand) miles keep you from the fieldtrip of a lifetime!

The evolution of digital tools allows us the freedom to "be" in two places at once. Explore the world and its cultural treasures through some impressive virtual resources. I've added a few, but please share yours, too!

Five Great iPad Apps for Virtual Field Trips
20 Online Museums for In-Class Field Trips
Ten of the Best Virtual Field Trips
Google's Cultural Institute Art, Architectural Wonders and Archives
Google Lit Trips

Explore the great cities of the world, from above with AirPano... AMAZING views of some of the most beautiful places on earth.
 Thanks to +Danielle Demarest for sharing!

Be sure to explore the comments sections on these resources as well... fellow educators often supplement the lists provided with their own faves. That's where I discovered the virtual visit to the caves at Lascaux... Ne parlez pas fran├žais? No worries, you won't need it to enjoy the virtual tour!

Lascaux

Going Digital in the Social Studies Classroom with Evidence-based Argumentation


Using Digital Technology to Foster Historical Argumentation under the CCSS by Julie B. Wise and Alexandra Panos
A great guide to avoiding a common trap of integration, where the technology "use does not assure deep understanding"... The authors argue that the curricular goals and the ability to identify perspective, make an authentic claim, support it with evidence, and close the argument successfully  take a primary role to the multimodal tool students choose. A multimodal tool could be PPT, GoogleSlides, or MovieMaker. Regardless of the tool, multimodal argumentation should take the same basic format. The authors also integrate primary document analysis and the argumentation process. Wonderful primer for historical argumentation!

Visualizing Text: The New Literacy of Infographics by Mark Davis and David Quinn
In yet another shameless plug for the power of infographics creation, another method to represent historical argumentation is the sleek, efficient infographic. In support of the CCSS evidence-based writing standards, creating an infographic requires students to perform intense and meaningful research to represent their findings in the slimmest possible format to deliver an impactful message! The article also covers teaching comprehension through infographics... so resources like To do this, they definitely will be honing their abilities to "find, retrieve, analyse, and use information", as we work to empower the next generation of historians!

More infographics resources can be found at Kathy Schrock's Guide to Infographics, a fellow educator who also loves her some infographics! I've also included an infographic on infographics below.

*To view these articles off the Lindbergh network, you'll need to visit ebsco.com and log in as User: lindbergh and password: flyers.



Monday, February 3, 2014

Is there any way I could actually use a Google Form in my classroom or building?

I saw this post linked on twitter today.  There are so many ways to use forms that it can be a little overwhelming at times.  Sometimes I don't even know where to start because there are simply too many options.  This one tiny post helped me really focus in on what forms could do for me.

Take a look.  What do you think about this?

Not sure what a Google Form is?  Watch this.

Reading with my ears - free from the county library!

So many books... make more time! Too many great books to read and so little time. I started to listen to books at the gym and in the ca...