Jun 27, 2013

Five Hallmarks of Good Homework

This is really good stuff from Cathy Vatterott--packed full of ideas. I'm going to steal a few paragraphs to demonstrate the potency of the information.
The best homework tasks exhibit five characteristics. First, the task has a clear academic purpose, such as practice, checking for understanding, or applying knowledge or skills. Second, the task efficiently demonstrates student learning. Third, the task promotes owner ship by offering choices and being personally relevant. Fourth, the task instills a sense of competence—the student can success fully complete it without help. Last, the task is aesthetically pleasing—it appears enjoyable and interesting (Vatterott, 2009).

Ideally, homework should provide feedback to teachers about student understanding, enabling teachers to adjust instruction and, when necessary, reteach concepts before assigning practice. Assigning practice prematurely can cause student frustration and confusion.

Projects that require nonacademic skills (such as cutting, gluing, or drawing) are often inefficient. Teachers assign projects like dioramas, models, and poster displays with all the best intentions—they see them as a fun, creative way for students to show what they have learned. But unless a rubric clearly spells out the content requirements, projects may reveal little about students' content knowledge and much more about their artistic talents (Bennett & Kalish, 2006). Even content-rich projects can be inefficient in terms of time spent. Teachers often don't realize how many hours these projects take and how tedious they may be for both student and parent.

If all students are to feel competent in completing homework, we must abandon a one-size-fits-all approach. Homework that students can't do without help is not good homework; students are discouraged when they are unable to complete homework on their own (Darling-Hammond & Ifill-Lynch, 2006; Stiggins, 2007). To ensure homework is doable, teachers must differentiate assignments so they are at the appropriate level of difficulty for individual students (Tomlinson, 2008).

If the homework assignment is to "Study for the test," does that mean memorize facts, review concepts, or learn new material not covered in class? And how do students know what it means? Although a study guide or take-home test that shows students exactly what they need to know is helpful, they don't necessarily have to write or complete anything to study. Teachers should encourage students to create their own best method of reviewing the information, suggesting possible options, such as organizing notes into an outline, writing test questions for themselves, putting important information on note cards, or studying with a partner.

Meaningful homework should be purposeful, efficient, personalized, doable, and inviting. Most important, students must be able to freely communicate with teachers when they struggle with homework, knowing they can admit that they don't understand a task—and can do so without penalty.
Flipped Classroom in Elementary School

Many of the articles that I've read on flipped classrooms focused on high school. So, I decided to search specifically for elementary school articles. Ms. Thompson has offered a few suggestions for flipping an elementary classroom.
  • Model your expectations in the classroom. Show a video and stop often to show students how to take notes. Then move to guided practice before assigning it for homework. 
  • Remember not all students have computer access at home so have a “back up plan” such as having students stay after school to use your computers or see if your technology teacher would let you borrow the computer lab. 
  • Think about what your goal is. Ask yourself exactly what do you want your students to master. 
  • Start small. Try one subject and see how it goes for your students. Make adjustments as necessary. 
  • Use videos that are already made from sites such as http://www.khanacademy.org, http://streaming.discoveryeducation.com or http://www.mathpickle.com/K-12/Videos.html to start you off. 
  • Try making your own videos once you get the hang of it. The kids love seeing and hearing you! 
  • Use it as a way to differentiate! 
  • Read up on it! There are lots of great articles out there and if you are on twitter follow #flipclass and see what educators are doing and saying all around the world.
What to do inside the ‘Flipped Class’

The idea behind the flipped classroom is easy to understand. This article gives some ideas about what to do in the classroom after the students have previewed the lesson. Here are some ideas from the article.
  • Set groups to produce visual, verbal or manual guidance for the material covered (Apps Explain Everything – Audioboo and iMovie) and have an ‘expert’ table run by the educator.
  • Give students a single stimulus to challenge their understanding of the theory and then produce their own extended writing task
  • Guess the learning objectives. Place the objectives in an envelope at the front of class. Complete tasks that allow for collaboration and discussion. Student/group guess the lesson objectives, closest wins prize. (Apps ICanAnimate – Animoto and Flipboard)
  • Ten sentence lesson. Educator is limited to ten sentences so students must chose their questions wisely. The fact that they already have content encourages collaboration and information filtering.
  • TV Quiz – Run by students based on ‘flipped’ video. (Apps Socrative and iMovie)

Jun 26, 2013

How To Create Powerful Student-Teacher Relationships

First of all, if you're not reading Edudemic, set a bookmark--for crying out loud.
Dr. Ruby K. Payne (2003) in A Framework for Understanding Poverty claims, “The key to achievement for students from poverty is in creating relationships with them.”
Students need to feel safe. When they don't feel safe, they become survivors, taking flight from their learning.
Structure and routine help alleviate fear: students know what to expect, know how the room will feel. That is, structure and routine around how we do things, not what we do. The brain needs stimulation to be healthy. Therefore, our lessons should contain variety; they should even create a bit of anxiety, which is healthy for learning. A looming deadline, a time limit, a set of demanding expectations can be very motivating (Nussbaum, 2012). The goal then becomes creating safety in structure but a push in the intellectual challenge.
Hand rubrics, exit slips, and pair sharing are tools that will lead to participation and positive relationships. Those are explained in the article.
The Flipped Classroom Infographic

Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Jun 25, 2013

The Quantile Framework for Mathematics

I'm trying to be proactive, so I'm using the Math Skills Database to get the prerequisites for every Math objective. That's where I'm starting when pretesting and planning.

From the site: Search this database for QTaxons using your state standards or any keywords. The database contains targeted, free resources appropriately matched to students by Quantile measure and math content.

Jun 24, 2013

Teach Like a Champion
by Doug Lemov

We use SLANT at my school. I didn't know where it came from until a teacher suggested this book. As the subtitle suggests, this book offers "49 techniques that put students on the path to college." Although I can appreciate some of these techniques, I won't use them to put my students on the path to college. I'll use them to bring structure, engagement, and fun to my classroom. It dawned on me this year--when teachers focus on college or even the next year, they forget about now. We tend to push too fast, focusing on time rather than the engagement and learning. We forget about the fun. Anyway...

As a math teacher, I found this bit quite interesting...
I often meet educators who take it as an article of faith that basic skills work in tension with higher-order thinking. That is, when you teach students to, say, memorize their multiplication tables, you are not only failing to foster more abstract and deeper knowledge but are interfering with it. This is illogical and, interestingly, one of the tenets of American education not shared by most of the educational systems in the world. Those nations are most likely to see that foundational skills like memorizing multiplication tables enable higher-order thinking and deeper insight because they free students from having to use up their cognitive processing capacity in more basic calculations. To have the insight to observe that a more abstract principle is at work in a problem or that there is another way to solve it, you cannot be concentrating on the computation. That part has to happen with automaticity so that as much of your processing capacity as possible can remain free to reflect on what you're doing. The more proficient you are at "lower-order" skills, the more proficient you can become at higher order skills.
For several years, I've waited after questions longer than usual. I did it because students stall and hope that teachers move along. However, there's more to it...
Minds work fast, and the amount of additional time necessary to improve the quality of answers may be small. Some research has shown that when students are given just three to five seconds of wait time after a question, several key things are likely to happen: The length and correctness of student responses are likely to increase. The number of failures to respond is likely to decrease. The number of students who volunteer to answer is likely to increase. The use of evidence in answers is likely to increase.
Over the last few years, I've given a lot of thought to management, rewards, and punishments. I've tried individual consequences, small-group consequences, and whole-class consequences. Long story short, I have no idea what I'm doing...
When schools or teachers over-rely on management, a death spiral ensures: students become desensitized to consequences and Machiavellian about rewards; more of each is required to achieve the same or lesser effect; students become increasingly insensitive to the larger doses, and the larger doses signal to students either the desperation of their teacher or that they are problem kids, not successful kids, and the currency is not only a positive part of an effective classroom culture.
Of all of the techniques, I will focus on a few for this school year...

To reinforce high expectations, I like No Opt Out.
When planning, I will Begin with the End.
I will Circulate as I teach.
Increasing engagement, I'll use Call and Response. If I can man up, I'll also use Vegas.
For a strong classroom culture, I can't wait to use Props.
In setting and maintaining high expectations, I will consider his ideas on No Warnings.
Positive Framing is a great way to build character and trust.
And I'll improve my pacing by remembering the age+2 rule.

Mr. Lemov has a website with ideas, videos, and a blog. Check it out.

Jun 18, 2013

Ohio Study Finds No Correlation Between Teacher Rating, Salary

I'm having a tough time with this one.

According to data collected from Ohio’s new value-added teacher ratings, there appears to be little correlation between how much value an instructor brings to each student and how much that instructor is paid.
This is the bit that had me throwing up my hands...
In some ways, these results are no surprise: The way Ohio schools determine teachers’ salaries has nothing to do with how well they teach. It has everything to do with how long they’ve been teaching and whether they have a master’s degree.
So, were they studying value/salary or value/quality? To me, it seems silly to expect variation when you know salary is simply based on years. I guess it's logical to think that experience leads to quality, but, come on, that's not necessarily true. A crap teacher this year is a crap year next year. And a fantastic teacher will probably improve from year to year, but that teacher also has to deal with a myriad of variables. 

My frustration over this article grew when I read...
The StateImpact/Plain Dealer analysis is based on the new assessment scheme that uses standardized test scores to determine how much teachers contribute to each individual student’s success. The approach seeks to give a more objective answer to the question “What makes a teacher good?”
Before my students took the Texas STAAR test this year, I told them that they weren't a number. A test or three tests do not define them. I guess we can't say the same thing about Ohio teachers. 

UPDATE: On Dr. Ravitch's blog, I found a related post, Ohio Teachers Subjected to Junk Science Ratings.

Jun 17, 2013

Documenting Learning in Mathematics (or any other subject) using Padlet

After taking photos with the iPads or creating a Thinglink photo, I've had the students post to Edmodo. But, that means I have to scroll through 60 posts to see all of them. Padlet would group all of the responses in one gallery. Next year, I'll have five classes, so I'll create five Padlets--organized and easy to assess.

Plus, I love QR codes, so I appreciate what Mr. G has done with that. Here is an example from the article.

Jun 16, 2013

8 Research Findings Supporting the Benefits of Gamification in Education

Oh, boy, it's always nice to see research support great ideas. While there are eight findings explained in the article, I'll list the first three.

1. Game playing can develop a positive attitude towards mathematics for children
2. Video games can lessen disruptive behaviors and enhance positive development in ADHD children
3. Children who construct their own video games experience increased cognitive and social growth
How One Teacher Turned Sixth Grade Into An MMO

This was an article about Ben Bertoli and his gamification project, ClassRealm. Again, I appreciate this type of article. At some point, I will craft a plan from the best ideas.
The system would have RPG elements and focus on various achievements. I made the achievements tiered so students would be able to earn the lower ones quickly and get a sense of how it felt to profit from their hard work and good deeds. The whole management process would be based on working hard, doing well on assignments and tests, and being kind to others.
This article explains Kate Fanelli's MathLand, a system of learning that includes levels and components. It sure helps to plan my own classroom when others are willing to share their amazing and creative ideas. 
Gamifying Education

Animation isn't just for kids! I found this Extra Credits video quite informative.


From the site: Make your lectures more engaging through interactive multimedia presentations.

Many times during the year, I used Socrative to get immediate feedback. And the students loved it each and every time. Now, take that same idea, and crank it up a bit. Below, you'll find a Vimeo video and an article that help illustrate Nearpod's value.

Nearpod Testimonials

How Nearpod Brought Active Learning To My Classroom

Make your lectures more engaging through
interactive multimedia presentations. - See more at: http://www.nearpod.com/#sthash.tCgQGyAJ.dpuf
Make your lectures more engaging through
interactive multimedia presentations. - See more at: http://www.nearpod.com/#sthash.tCgQGyAJ.dpuf
Make your lectures more engaging through
interactive multimedia presentations. - See more at: http://www.nearpod.com/#sthash.tCgQGyAJ.dpuf
Make your lectures more engaging through
interactive multimedia presentations. - See more at: http://www.nearpod.com/#sthash.tCgQGyAJ.dpuf
Make your lectures more engaging through
interactive multimedia presentations. - See more at: http://www.nearpod.com/#sthash.tCgQGyAJ.dpuf
Make your lectures more engaging through
interactive multimedia presentations. - See more at: http://www.nearpod.com/#sthash.tCgQGyAJ.dpuf
Clipping Magic

I've needed something like this for years. Whether projects for school or holidays, I've wanted to separate the subjects in photos from the backgrounds, but I don't have the software to accomplish that. Heck, even if I did have Photoshop or something, it would take me forever to figure it out. I've not used it, yet, but I'm hopeful.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

After a Twitter suggestion, I started reading Jane McGonigal's book, and I suspect that it's already taking me somewhere. I'm not sure what it looks like, yet, but it's going to change my classroom.

Listen to this:
Today's "born-digital" kids--the first generation to grow up with the Internet, born 1990 or later--crave gameplay in a way that older generations don't.

Most of them have had easy access to sophisticated games and virtual worlds their entire lives, and so they take high-intensity engagement and active participation for granted... And that's why today's born-digital kids are suffering more in traditional classrooms than any previous generation. School today for the most part is just one long series of necessary obstacles that produce negative stress. The work is mandatory and standardized, and failure goes on your permanent record (127).
She goes on to explain the Quest to Learn school.
Secret missions, boss levels, expertise exchanges, special agents, points, and levels instead of letter grades--there's no doubt that Quest to Learn is a different kind of learning environment... It's an unprecedented infusion of gamefulness into the public school system. And the result is a learning environment where students get to share secret knowledge, turn their intellectual strengths into superpowers, tackle epic challenges, and fail without fear (127).
Fail without fear. Many of them could improve so much faster if they would only take chances. And finally...
Leveling up is a much more egalitarian model of success than a traditional letter grading system based on the bell curve. Everyone can level up, as long as they keep working hard. Leveling up can replace or complement traditional letter grades that students have just one shot at earning. And if you fail a quest, there's no permanent damage done to your report card. You just have to try more quests to earn enough points to get the score you want. This system of "grading" replaces negative stress with positive stress, helping students focus more on learning and less on performing (130).
I'm fascinated by that paragraph. I have some work to do.

It was a long, challenging year. So, around April, I disengaged all nonessential processes. Slowly, though, I'm recuperating. There are grand ideas floating around in my noodle, and I need to start fleshing them out.