EDU 6528: Individual Reflection

“…Teaching also involves complex choices about difficult problems that, if left unaddressed, often escalate. A different type of thinking is needed to address such choices. Tough choices call for teacher to engage in sophisticated reflection – including self-reflection.” (Danielson, 2009)

I chose for this individual reflection to keep both a “sticky note” journal in my plan book and a written journal of the overarching ideas of the week. I felt that the sticky notes which I took directly after a lesson would capture my immediate thoughts and reactions for that lesson, while the more detailed and time-intensive journal would allow me the time and space to truly reflect on my practice and provide next steps. After looking at the various methods I felt that this would be the easiest way to capture my thoughts in real time. It is hard to remember details if you wait too long and I knew that would be a key to learning for me.

The beginning of the project went relatively smoothly. Following each lesson I would record positives (+), negatives (-), and next steps for future practice. Then at the end of the day I would reflect on the notes I took on each lesson and write my further reflections, thoughts, ideas, and next steps that were not already documented. I utilized the 4-Step reflection process for my journal portion as detailed in the text. This idea of individual reflection dates back to the work of Dewey in 1933. He suggested, “Reflection begins with a dilemma. Effective teachers suspend making conclusions about a dilemma in order to gather information, study the problem, gain new knowledge, and come to a sound decision. This deliberate contemplation brings about new learning.” (Danielson, 2009) The dilemma I was having is that my lesson pacing seemed rushed and I was struggling to get to my closing activities and implement them with any fidelity. I was hoping through the reflection process that the “why” this was happening would be clear to me.

At first, to be honest, this seemed like another tedious act that would not provide much impact for the amount of work it was taking, but quickly, I realized I was wrong. Each lesson that I reflected on, asking myself the What?, Why?, So What?, and Now What? Questions, I saw easy changes that I could make immediately. I realized things about my students that I had not known before and I would come into the next lesson that day with a different mindset and drive. I discussed some of these observation with my grade level team and one realization we made was that my class this year is very young compared to the other groups of third graders. My students have later birthdays with many in the spring and three of them just turning eight this September, where most of their peers are turning nine during this school year. This observation was clearly linked to the dilemma I was having. This group needs many more examples, visuals, and hands on learning opportunities than my third graders needed last year.

This is an example of “deliberate thinking” which goes beyond just reflecting back on each lesson and having notes for future practice. While that is extremely worthwhile and enables me to plan better for next year and even for lessons for this current group. Deliberate thinking means, “An educator purposefully seeks more information than the immediate context provides by, for example, revisiting theory, talking with colleagues, interviewing students, or reviewing student records. The goal is to learn more to better understand the dilemma.” As the authors stated in Reflective Teaching to Improve Schools, “In preparation for future use, she makes changes in lesson immediately, not only to capture specific ideas that emerge but to document the reasons and thinking underlying the changes as well.” (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, & Montie, 2006) As far as addressing my original dilemma, some recurring issues stood out to me in my reflections. I was basically trying to do too much. By incorporating good teaching strategies, wait time, deeper questioning, and allowing for the extra processing time this group needs, I was trying to add too much content into a day. That is why I couldn’t get to that final and all important piece of my closing activity.

I decided to implement some changes right away. This week for science I used my reflection observations as I planned. For each lesson I took out one step and moved that to the next day. Then I added a lesson on Friday which is usually not a science day. Making a few simple switches to our schedule and finding the extra 45 minutes gave me time to complete all the teaching needed, slow down my pacing, and incorporate the closing activities. I saw that my students were less stressed and it seems that their learning has already been deepened. I was also less stressed and enjoyed the teaching much more! Clearly, the time it took to do the reflections was worth it and enabled me to actually make better use of time overall. This realization has made me see that reflecting on lessons and daily practice is not just something we should do as a student teacher or when we have a problem and want to solve it, but should be a part of my daily practice. A next step for me will be to incorporate students’ reflections into my closing activities and then use those comments as part of my own reflection process. Being intentional in reflection can only be a positive to myself and my students.

 

Danielson, Lana M. “Fostering Reflection.” Educational Leadership 66.5 (2009): Web. 1 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Fostering-Reflection.aspx&gt;.

York-Barr, Jennifer. Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2006. Print.

 

Curriculum Design: MetaReflection: Standard 9

Teacher Leader Standard 9 states: Teacher leaders evaluate and use effective curriculum design. Previously, I felt confident in my skills around curriculum design, however, given the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and increased demands on teachers and students, the rigors of curriculum and unit design have drastically increased. This course allowed me to apply my previous knowledge and experience while implementing new learning and standards into my unit planning.

The readings for this course were Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe and Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The first text, Understanding by Design, gave us the format and method upon which to build our unit design.

I focused on the three stages of the backwards design model during my unit planning:

  1. Identify the results
  2. Determine acceptable evidence
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

(Wiggins & McTighe, 2005)

By beginning with the end in mind. I started with identifying the CCSS and key understandings that my students should have following this unit. By creating the curriculum map seen here -

photo unit map,

I could get the big ideas laid out first and move from there. I then looked at my unit assessment and decided to pick out how each question aligned to the standards that I want my students to achieve. I also looked at the target type. In Classroom Assessment for Student Learning, the authors break learnings targets (standards) into four types: Knowledge, Reasoning, Skill, or Product targets. Teachers should consider, “whether the content standard’s ultimate goal is the acquisition of knowledge, the development of reasoning capabilities, the demonstration of a physical skill, or the creation of a product.” (Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, Arter, p. 61) I determined that all of the CCSS associated with my unit are asking for a reasoning level in order to reach the standard.

As I analyzed my learning targets and compared them with the questions on my unit exam I was surprised to find that what was being asked of the students on the unit exam were skills where they had to apply their knowledge and reasoning to create an equation. The exam was also very heavy in text which requires the students to apply reading comprehension skills as well as math skills to solve each problem. I do know that the math unit teaching covers the learning targets above and gives opportunity for the students to achieve a reasoning level of proficiency which is what is being asked of them in the CCSS. I have two ideas as to how to cover the gap between the learning target and what is being asked of them on the exam. One is to use a different assessment where the equations are given to the students and they have to use reasoning skills to determine the correct answer (multiple choice). Second, I can make sure that during the teaching of my unit I include ample opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and reasoning to create their own word problems and equations, there by moving the learning targets into the skill and product levels. This was the option that I decided to focus on.

Once my unit assessments were in place and aligned to the standards (steps 1 and 2 of UBD), I was able to move on to step 3 and plan my learning experiences and instruction. Formerly, this would have been my first step in the process, but my knowledge now of the backwards design method enabled me to plan activities and lessons which directly related to the outcomes I was expecting to achieve. The Final Unit Plan and Lesson Plans capture the standards and the scope and sequence of what will be taught, incorporating both formative and summative assessments in the process.

In order to fully plan my unit and make it relevant to my students, the readings in Curriculum 21 were key. The author, Heidi Hayes Jacobs gave us the “philosophical, theoretical, and historical aspects to curriculum design.” In the opening chapters of Curriculum 21, Jacobs makes a compelling argument for why and how we need to upgrade our curriculum to educate today’s generation. “You are making choices for the generation you are charged to nurture. You are making those choices now.” (p. 5) Jacobs poses a poignant question to us, “Do our students enter our schools and classrooms and feel like they have time traveled back to the 1980’s (or even earlier) and then at the end of the day do they feel they have returned to the 21st century?” (p. 7) She lays out how much of what we do in education is out of habit and historic patterns that were set up in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I reflected on my own practice and asked myself, “Does my classroom represent what I did in school or am I preparing these students for their future schooling and careers?” Although much of what I teach is the same (content), how I teach it and the tools I utilize with my students, especially in technology, are very different. The instructional strategies I use are something I never had as a student. In my elementary school, classrooms were quiet and not collaborative. Desks were in rows and lecture and recall of facts were the primary method of instruction and student work. Within my unit design I made sure to apply the instructional strategies and technology that would be relevant to my 21st century students.

One key aspect to my work was Curriculum Analysis. I chose to analyze the Third Grade math curriculum that my district uses, Envision math. In this analysis, I found that overall it is a sound and comprehensive program. However, I did see that there were issues in regards to too many text based questions which would alienate our ELL population and lower level readers. I also noted that this curriculum is a spiral based program and in my study of the CCSS I learned that it is a mastery based standards system. I researched further to analyze the alignment of Envision to the CCSS I found the following quote in one of their own publications –

Unlike many state curriculum frameworks, the Common Core State Standards do not present a spiral curriculum in which students revisit numerous topics from one year to the next with progressively more complex study. Rather, the CCSS identify a limited number of topics at each grade level, allowing enough time for students to achieve mastery of these concepts. The subsequent year of study builds on the concepts of the previous year. While some review of topics from earlier grades is appropriate and encouraged, the CCSS writers argue that reteaching of these topics should not be needed.

(Transitioning to Common Core Teacher Guide, Pearson Education, 2012)

It is clear to me that in a very spiral based curriculum such as Envision, meeting the standards to mastery will be difficult to accomplish if we continue planning and teaching as we have in the past. Further work in this area of curriculum alignment is needed by both the publisher of the curriculum, the district, and school based PLC teams. My PLC team will be looking at this closely this year to make the necessary instructional changes so that our students can meet the new standards and be prepared for fourth grade and beyond. As a result of the learning and experience gained in this course, I feel ready to meet this challenge and be able to lead my team in this important work.

 

References –

Charles, Randall I., Janet H. Caldwell, and Mary Cavanaugh. EnVisionMath Common Core. Glenview, IL: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2010. Print.

Harvard Family Research Project – http://www.hfrp.org/

Stiggins, Richard J., Judith A. Arter, Jan Chappuis, and Stephen Chappuis. Classroom

Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right — Using It Well. Upper Saddle River,       NJ: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.

Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005. Print.

EDU 6655: Final Meta-Reflection

Continue reading EDU 6655: Final Meta-Reflection

EDU 6655: Math Skills

How do we calculate? How do we learn math in a different way than we learn reading? Why are some people “readers” and some people “math” people? Or is that even true? These are the questions which lead me to explore chapter 19 of The Brain and Learning. (Jossey/Bass, 2008)

In reading Math Skills by James P. Byrnes (ch19, Jossey Bass), I learned that the neuroscience behind math achievement is far behind the psychological research in that area. The author suggests that because of this we should base our instructional choices on the psychological perspective until more neuroscience studies have been conducted. (p. 324) Byrnes goes on to make several suggestions for instructional choices. A few especially stood out to me and warrant mention.

The first is that “instruction at all levels should be consistent with the “Math 2000″ recommendations of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1998).” (p. 324) I was curious if there was an updated recommendation by the NCTM and in reviewing their website I was correct in my assumption that they are now recommending the Common Core State Standards in math. In a comparison paper by Achieve.org, they outline the similarities of the CCSS and the NCTM Focal Points. Their conclusion was this -

Overall, the CCSS are well aligned to the Focal Points. Policymakers can be assured that in adopting the CCSS, they will be setting learning expectations for students that are similar to those set by the Focal Points. There are, however, a number of important differences in the placement and priority of topics as detailed in this document. These differences will require careful consideration in building curriculum, planning instruction, providing professional development and developing assessments during the implementation of the CCSS in states. The CCSS, like the Focal Points, place a priority on focus and coherence, seeking to set forth rigorous learning outcomes that will prepare students for later success. (www.achieve.org/files/CCSSandFocalPoints.pdf)

The next point Byrne makes is that “one of the best ways to instill knowledge in students is to have them solve structurally similar problems and consider how these problems are similar (Gick & Holyoak, 1983: Sweller & Cooper, 1985)(p. 324) In addition he states, “exercises should be designed to promote an accurate meta-cognitive understanding of when an answer is sensible and correct, and when it is not.” (p. 324) This is key in my instruction with my students and something I am constantly encouraging them to ask themselves. We practice ways to approach problems, underline the key numbers and words in word problems, and ask ourselves “what am I trying to solve for in this problem?”. After solving, students ask themselves, “does my answer make sense?” and “how can I check my answer?”. They then use strategies such as estimation and/or checking their answer with the opposite operation to be able to be sure they are correct and their answer is reasonable. For my struggling math students this is very difficult. They struggle to determine and explain if their answer is reasonable much in the same way my struggle readers have difficulty accurately answering comprehension questions or finding text evidence to support their answers.

Finally, Byrne concludes that “there is no substitute for extensive practice”. (p. 324) Students need as much practice as possible both in problem solving and to overcome making “a variety of procedural errors”. He sums it up saying, “the best approach involves embedding practice within meaningful, goal-directed activities.” (p. 325) I achieve practice in my classroom in many ways including; early work, problem of the day, morning question, math groups, practice, math games, Reflex, and IXL. We use the idea of coming back to the concept again and again throughout the day so that by the time they sit down with homework at night it is the fourth or fifth time they have seen that type of problem that day. Hopefully, this is working to help the students build a schema on how to solve similar problems consistently.

 

The Jossey-Bass Reader on the Brain and Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.

http://www.nctm.org/standards/default.aspx?id=58

www.achieve.org/files/CCSSandFocalPoints.pdf

EDTC 6433: Creativity

This week we filmed “A Day in the Life” of ourselves. Simply by using my phone I was able to capture video all through the week. It was advised that we capture about 10 minutes of video in order to edit it down to 3-5 minutes. The theme this week being “creativity” I felt the pressure to be very creative. That was very hard! I felt like my life was quite boring and didn’t lend itself well to being creative. Yet, I captured the videos and went on with my week.

Today we brought our video clips in and used http://www.WeVideo.com to publish them. This was a very intuitive site to use and offered great editing options including themes with music already built in. Once I uploaded my videos it was easy to edit them down and place them in the order I wanted. Then I hit play and my “Day in the Life” began. Little did I know that when set to music my life wasn’t boring anymore! It was great to watch and I found myself wanting to go back and and add certain shots that I missed in my day. I loved seeing my kids, husband, and co-workers in this way.

I immediately thought of how I could use this tool in my classroom. It is very motivating and engaging. I know my students would love to create videos of themselves or “a day in the life of Lakeview”. My creative wheels are turning and I can’t wait to try this with them this year.

Here is a link to an article with other great ideas for using video in the classroom – http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/2127

EDTC 6433: Collaboration

This week we worked in an online forum on a collaborative project. After each doing our own research, we posted to a wiki to share our findings. Overall, I found this to be a great tool and way to engage with others without having to be physically present. However, I had some trouble along the way as well.

The wiki assignment itself was very engaging and I would love to try something like this with my students. I know in Haiku we can create a wiki and I would like to pursue this further. I wish we would have learned a bit more about how to set up the wiki and what sites are free and work better than others. My only complaint in the site we used was it had technical issues today which made it hard to complete the project. I know this can be the case with any website and can’t be controlled completely, but knowing which sites are more stable and reliable would be great.

One issue I could see arising with a wiki when using it with students is the changing, stealing, or “messing with” someone else’s work. Since it is possible to go in and edit pages, there is a potential there for problems to occur. I believe this could be combated by teaching, modeling, and strictly enforcing good digital citizenship. As a teacher I would also be closely moderating the wiki to ensure that best practices were being followed.

The potential use of a wiki in a school wide setting is also a great idea to explore. Recently my school did our annual CIP (Continuous Improvement Plan) planning which required many face to face meetings and hours of collaboration. I believe a much better forum for this would be a wiki where we could collaborate, post, and edit our information without the need for a long meeting.

Finally this week we used Google Docs to post our final presentation in the form of a slide. This worked much like PowerPoint, but in a collaborative setting. I loved this! I want to use this in my growth plan project with my students. A key aspect of working with Google Docs is that is saves automatically and I have never had any technical issues with the site. I have only used it when someone else set up the page and I am very interested to explore it more myself and how I can use it in my classroom. One way I thought of was for field trip signups for parents. Using that tool would elevieate the many pieces of paper and emails needed to coordinate that. Parents could easily see if there is a spot available and sign up right then.

I leave this week feeling inspired and excited to try new technology in my classroom. I love the hands on approach to the learning and realize now with technology that it is something you just have to get in and try. Trial and error can be our best teachers and persevering through the sometimes frustrating times can lead to a great product and sense of accomplishment on the other side.