TL Standard 4: Engage in Analysis of Teaching and Collaborative Practices

I met TL Standard 4 through two different assignments in my Accomplished Teaching course. Both the Partner Reflection and Collaborative Analysis Instructional Plan were key to my learning in this standard. The following is overview of my work in this area.  

 

My coaching session took place with a fellow 3rd grade teacher who approached me for help in planning and implementing a reading/writing (ELA) workshop model into her classroom. She knew that I had experience successfully running such a model in former 1st grade teaching role and now as a 3rd grade teacher as well. In preparation for our coaching session I knew that I had to clearly focus on my active listening skills in order to make this be successful and productive for both of us. I reviewed the SPACE acronym: Silence, Paraphrasing, Accepting nonjudgmentally, clarifying, and extending; and determined that I would be very purposefully in my use of that technique during our session. I also prepared by gathering materials, examples of student work, and descriptions of the systems I use during ELA workshop. These steps proved key to our success during this coaching session. I did not immediately utilize the materials, but began with a mindset of listening and understanding before we dove in and looked at how it all works.

Our session began with my colleague describing her past experience as a 6th and 2nd grade teacher in another school. Since coming to our building as a job-share partner to a current 3rd grade teacher, she has been frustrated by the pacing and schedule she has had to keep with her students. “I don’t feel like we accomplish much.” she explained. “We go through the material, but it is rushed to get it done in my two or three days a week and then I am gone. I want to know that they get it and go deeper with them.” During this time I listened to her and asked some open ended questions to gain further insight. I also thanked her for being so open and commented on her past successes to help her to see that these current frustrations are not what she is characterized by and can be worked through. In addition, I shared a personal connection of being in a job share and feeling a similar way.

I wonder now if sharing my story was a mistake. I feel that shifted the focus from her to me and that was not what I wanted. Doing some further research I found I was correct in my concern. “Coaching must be teacher-centered. Teacher-centered is different from coach-centered. When conversations are coach-centered, the coach’s expertise has the upper hand.” (Tschannen-Moran, Tschannen-Moran, 2011) I continued the session by asking her what she would like to see work differently in her classroom, that put us back on track of her being the focus and zeroed us in on the work we were there to do. Examples of other questions that I asked were, “When did you feel like you were the best teacher and had the highest student engagement/achievement?” “How do you think you could implement those ideas into your current teaching role?” “When you reflect back on last year, what are some things you would like to see work differently this year with your students?” These questions brought us to a solution based conversation where we were then able to brainstorm and plan how a workshop model could work in her classroom on her teaching days. It was only then that I brought out the materials I had gathered and we could collaboratively plan and discuss how we can use them successfully in our own classrooms.

In reflecting back on this coaching session, I know that there are some things I did well, but others I need to work on. I was good about focusing the conversation on her strengths and what she has done in the past and is currently doing well. I also think I was successful at creating a “no-fault” environment which kept this a coaching session and did not cross over into being evaluative. (Tschannen-Moran, Tschannen-Moran, 2011) For future coaching, my goal is to remain “teacher-centered and not coach-centered.” Withholding my own personal stories and connections will keep the focus on the person I am coaching and off of me. I would also like to see a coaching model where we utilize action research. Focusing our work on an action research project could heighten the collaborative process and provide ways for us to, “systematically reflect on and improve practice.” (York-Barr, et. al, 2006) Action research allows for a clear implantation plan and includes collecting and analyzing data in order to inform and plan next steps.

Coaching allows us as educators to discuss and analyze, “complex problems of practice” in a meaningful and productive way. (p. 119) Overall, this was an enlightening and positive experience that I am looking forward to participating in again.

Following this individual coaching time, I worked to utilize my collaborative strategies and engage my PLC team in the analyzing of student work. This was new learning for my team and I was eager to be a part of it. My 3rd grade PLC team chose to analyze our end of Topic 6 assessment for math. We know that research shows working in a team results in teachers showing, “significantly higher levels of knowledge about students, skill variety to their work, helpfulness and effectiveness within their work group, teaching efficacy, professional commitment, and overall satisfaction and growth.” (York-Barr, et. al, 2006) We have found this to be true in our own practice and this collaborative analysis again proved that to be true.

Topic 6 covered the standard Operations and Algebraic Thinking, specifically – 3.OA.A.1, 3, and 4 and 3.OA.B.5 and 3.OA.C.7. This is our second of two units on multiplication. The first unit covered overarching multiplication concepts such as equal groups and recognizing multiplication situations. This unit covered all the multiplication fact strategies and using all the factors 0-12 including problem solving, determining unknown factors, and using relationships and strategies to solve multiplication problems.

We began by analyzing student daily work from the unit which best related to the standard. (See attached) following that analysis we determined that the majority of our students were ready to be assessed on the summative assessment for this unit. Those who were still struggling with concepts were given extra review time in a small group and daily review and practice in their safety net math class. All students were administered the summative assessment the same day (see attached scoring guide with standard). We met the following day after scoring them to discuss our students’ results. My PLC decided to use the Analysis of Student Work Protocol from the New Teacher Center to drive our work. Following is the results of our analysis including what our students can do related to the standard, what their needs still are related to the standard, a differentiation and re-teaching plan for our students, and a plan for re-assessing the standard through the school year.

What Our Students Can Do –

80 out of 90 of our 3rd grade students met or exceeded the standard receiving a 3, 3.5, or 4 on the summative assessment on at least one of the two graded strands. Attached are examples of student work at a level 4, 3, and 2 (the lowest score out of all students.) All students at or above standard were all able to show with confidence a clear understanding and application of the multiplication standards under Operations and Algebraic thinking including problem solving and applying multiplication and division properties. Some clear patterns of strength appeared in their work as well. Students who met standard were clearly able to break apart multiplication problems into simpler problems and then regroup them back for a final answer. For example, 3×7 broken into 1×7=7 and 2×7=14 so 3×7= 14+7=21. (3.OA.B.5 – Apply properties of operations as strategies to multiply and divide.2 Examples: If 6 × 4 = 24 is known, then 4 × 6 = 24 is also known. (Commutative property of multiplication.) 3 × 5 × 2 can be found by 3 × 5 = 15, then 15 × 2 = 30, or by 5 × 2 = 10, then 3 × 10 = 30. (Associative property of multiplication.) Knowing that 8 × 5 = 40 and 8 × 2 = 16, one can find 8 × 7 as 8 × (5 + 2) = (8 × 5) + (8 × 2) = 40 + 16 = 56. (Distributive property.) These students were also able to apply their understanding into a new situation and demonstrated their understanding in more than one way (Question 13).

Students at a level 2, approaching standard, or below were still able to show some basic understanding, but they were unable to apply their basic knowledge into different and more complex multiplication situations. (3.OA.A.3 – Use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.)

One key group was identified in our below standard learners, these are our students that are new to our school this school year or have transferred in since the beginning of school. We addressed their needs in the next section.

 

What Our Students Need, Differentiation, and Re-Assessment –

The primary need of our students is continued practice and review of these concepts. The standards state that by the end of 3rd grade all multiplication basic facts, products of any 2 one digit numbers, be daily practice with the facts including written, verbal, visual, and kinesthetic practice through a variety of activities and hands on math games. Students will have choice over their activities as well which increases student engagement and has been shown to in turn increase student achievement. Students will need time and opportunity for this practice and as a PLC team we have committed to building that time daily into our schedules. In addition, our students need continued practice applying the multiplication knowledge they have into new and different situations. Using a series performance based problem solving activities in partners and small groups, students will be able to analyze situations, apply their knowledge and achieve a synthesis level of knowledge demonstration by creating a new outcome or solution to the problem. These activities will not only create a challenge for our level 3, 3.5 and 4 students, but give our level 2 students a peer coach to work with creating new learning opportunities for them.

Our target group of level 2 and below students will receive additional instruction and remediation in the standards areas in which they are lacking. We will do this through a variety of intervention strategies in addition to the ones listed above these will include: small group instruction with teacher, practice on Reflex math and IXL, Safety Net math group, Leopard Club (after school homework and tutoring club), working with LINKS or parent volunteers. Equally or even more important will be that each teacher will connect with those students’ parents and offer a take home math bag with flash cards, math games with clear instructions and materials included, and a parent letter translated in their home language which explains the standard in clear language and what their child needs to be practicing and working on at home. In our experience, these students have parents who want to help at home, but they either don’t know how or often don’t know the math or (understand how we teach it) themselves. We want to eliminate that barrier for them and create a home/school connection to help our students make the best progress and growth they can.

Our target group of students new to our school will be targeted in all the above ways, but in addition will receive a few directed lessons in what we are calling our “newcomers group.” We hypothesize that some of the struggles they are having are a result of a lack of knowledge and experience with our adopted curriculum. The math vocabulary, processes for solving problems and showing work, and even the structure of equations and test questions can all effect a student’s positive results. Once they have had this instruction we will expect to see their scores and understanding improve or we can accurately assess whether there are gaps in their number sense which need to be addressed with further instruction.

Re-assessment of this skill/standard will take many forms for our PLC team. We use ongoing formative assessment in a variety of ways throughout our lessons. We are constantly taking a “dip stick” of where our students are at and what our next steps will be. We meet weekly as a team to share student data and determine these next steps. We utilize flexible heterogeneous groups for our math instruction which allows us to further differentiate and discuss student successes and needs as a group because we at some point have taught all students in the 3rd grade. When one teacher finds a successful instructional strategy with a particular student or group, he/she shares it so we, and our students, can all benefit. In addition, because we have chosen this standard as our Professional Growth Goal for the year, we will be giving a series of assessments to track student growth over time. These assessment will come in January, March, and May. Finally, this standard is foundational to our continued work in math this year. Our next unit introduces division and students will be asked to apply their knowledge of multiplication to learn that inverse operation. In this way they will be continuing to practice, deepen, and broaden their math skills and understanding throughout this school year and beyond.

 

 

References –

 

 

Houston, Paul D., Alan M. Blankstein, and Robert W. Cole. Spirituality in Educational Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2008. Print.

“Preparing America’s Students for Success.” Home. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

Tschannen-Moran, Bob, and Megan Tschannen-Moran. “The Coach and the Evaluator.” Educational Leadership 69.2 (2011): 10-16. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

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

 

 

TL Standard 1: Model Ethical and Moral Behavior

I am a Christian. I was raised in a home with a Christian mother and a lapsed Catholic, but very high character father. Morals, values, and ethics, were very important in our home and I took those forward with me into adulthood. As a young and naïve teacher I thought that I should to separate my beliefs from my work in the classroom, but I soon learned that was difficult as our core beliefs and values are truly played out in how we conduct ourselves each day. In addition, character education, whether explicitly taught in the curriculum or not, is a key part of an elementary child’s education. Teachers are there to help shape, mold, and grow little humans. Our students are not just robots to be programmed with the ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s, but imparted with wisdom and tools on how to make important life decisions. That starts in the classroom and on the playground and grows to middle school, high school, and eventually college and the work force. In addition, because we assess these character traits I feel that it is an important part of my job to teach these character traits. So what are the traits that are important? Are those traits uniquely Christian or are they universal in nature, crossing all cultural and religious lines? These are the questions which drove my early teaching years and ones that I still reflect on today.

During this course we read The Abolition of Man and reflected on what C.S. Lewis called “The Tao”, the moral standard by which we live. For me the answer to what is my Tao refers back to my identity as a Christian. My answer for that would be, “The Bible.” Including the Ten Commandments, the Bible is my “blueprint for life.” When the Bible does not explicitly call something out as right or wrong, then I use prayer and seek wise advice from mentors I trust and who hold to the same values that I do. In Exodus, we read about God giving the “Law” to his people. This includes the Ten Commandments, but goes much more in detail in the later chapters. For me the Law is a guideline, but I am so thankful for the New Testament and to live under Grace. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. God knew we couldn’t live by the letter of the law and ultimately he provided “a way out.” However, we are still to live in accordance with the values in the Bible. In Philippians, Paul shows us many examples of what it looks like to live a Christian life. These include –

  • Imitate Christ’s humility and to live as Christ lived so others may know Him.
  • Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like starts in the universe. I see these verses telling us to be a light to the world. To stand out in our behavior so that we point others to Christ.
  • Let your gentleness be evident to all
  • Don’t be anxious for anything, but in prayer, submit your requests to God
  • Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things…and the God of Peace will be with you.

Jesus commanded us to “Love one another” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” among many others decrees for believers. While some of the commands of the Bible are uniquely Christian or Jewish in nature, many if not most are universal beliefs held by all major religions and cultures. I see these as being values all humans can aspire to and should live by and ones that I can teach my students without teaching them a religion. They show up in the elementary classroom as “Be Kind to One Another”. We talk a lot and model what kindness to others looks like. This is a small step in their character development.

In The Abolition of Man, Lewis argues the existence and validity of the Tao. Some call it, “Natural Law or Traditional Morality, or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments.” (p. 43) He does explain that by putting all the “traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagen, and the Jew” together, you will “find many contradictions and some absurdities.” However, I think we see more common ground than differences. Much research has been done on this subject and many commonalities between the seven major world religions exist. Four common themes emerged as I read through different literature –

  1. Commitment to something greater than oneself – honesty, justice, truth
  2. Self-respect, humility, self-discipline, personal responsibility
  3. Respect and caring for others (The Golden Rule)
  4. Caring for other living things and the environment

(Kinnier, Kernes, Dautheribes; 2000)

 

So then I ask myself, “What moral standards do you consider most important for schools?” As a teacher I defer to what is required of me from Washington State –

All teachers shall stress the importance of the cultivation of manners, the fundamental principles of honesty, honor, industry and economy, the minimum requisites for good health including the beneficial effect of physical exercise and methods to prevent exposure to and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and the worth of kindness to all living creatures and the land. (RCW 28A.230.020)

 

I do believe that teaching manners, courtesy, honesty, respect for self and others, respect for the environment and living things, and personal high standards and character are extremely important concepts and values for students to study and accept. These are the life skills and personal attributes which permeate all cultures and will benefit them for their entire lives. As teachers we have all had very smart and capable students who were very book and study smart, but lacked the social skills and personal values to be successful in the classroom and with their peers. These students “don’t play well with others”. They lie, cheat, steal, don’t share, exclude, are unkind and even mean. I don’t have a problems telling a student who is cheating or lying that that behavior is “wrong”. I believe that falls under the universal values that all cultures hold and it is my job as a teacher to teach that value to my students. Do we want our students to be like the character of Willie Stark in All the King’s Men? The idea that “everyone” is doing it is how I see the changes happening in Willie in All the King’s Men. He was once an idealist and went into politics to make a difference. Now, he “plays the game” and is willing to sacrifice his values to get what he wants. He will literally do whatever it takes to succeed. I thought it interesting that his lawyer had to resign and I took that as his way of distancing himself and not compromising his own values any longer. That shows real character and values in itself.

While I don’t advocate the teaching of religion in public schools, the teaching about religion and religious values is an important part of our educational system. In Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum we read about the idea of the civil public school. This school is one that is not void of religion, but also students are not indoctrinated into a certain religious belief. The civil public school is a “common ground” a place where all views and beliefs may be discussed and where we can agree to disagree, but ultimately learn about and appreciate each other’s beliefs and differences. The authors state, “As the religious diversity of the United States continues to expand, it will be increasingly important that public schools be places where religious liberty works and where we learn as much as possible about one another.” If we can’t have these discussions in school and we save them only for the home where only one family’s viewpoint is represented, then how are we really teaching our children? That isn’t the real world. They will be in jobs and interacting throughout their lives with people of all races and religions. America is only getting more diverse, not less, and leaving the study and conversations about religion out of our schools only does a disservice to our students.

The teaching of character in our schools does not come without its critics. I have faced great adversity in this area when my school tried and failed at implementing a character education program. In The Abolition of Man this was addressed and I could relate to so many of the insights Lewis discussed and found myself nodding in agreement much of the time. First, the text rose the issue of teaching our students to be great thinkers and discerners of text and the world. Part of ourselves that is innate to us and therefore influences the world and how we see it is our emotions. To discount our emotion as trivial or unimportant, discounts who we are as humans. Likewise, the statement Lewis made, “It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and it presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all” speaks to the strong influence early teachings can have on students. If we teach a wrong or flawed philosophy early on, they may not fully grasp it, but it sinks in and can form their thinking years down the road. This is where I think parents and society get held up in character education. People think if we “teach” character then we are influencing students and pushing them to make decisions a certain way or that we are teaching “religion”. I don’t agree with that premise. I think without character education that students could be at the whim of any author or teacher to influence them into wrong thinking and patterns as we saw Lewis describe with “The Green Book.” He continues the argument by pointing out that every major world culture has a set of universal truths and “the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” As I showed above, modern researchers have found this to be true as well.

My goal as an educator is simple. I want to do what “ought” to be done and not what some suggest “should” be done. What ought to be done is to impart our students with the character traits and values that are universal to all cultures and religions. Manners, courtesy, honesty, respect for self and others, respect for the environment and living things, and personal high standards and character are extremely important concepts and values for students to study and accept within the civil public school. My role, my job, as a public school teacher is a serious one and one that I love each and every day.

 

References –

Kinnier, Richard T., Jerry L. Kernes, and Therese M. Dautheribes. “A Short List of Universal Morals.” Counseling and Values 45 (2000): 1-16. Web. 6 July 2014.

Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man, Or, Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2001. Print.

Nord, Warren A. and Haynes, Charles C. 1998. Taking religion seriously across the curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Scofield, C. I. “Genesis.” The First Scofield Study Bible: King James Version. Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible, 1986. Print.

Warren, Robert Penn. All the King’s Men. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946. Print.

TL Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels

Teacher Leadership Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels, was met during my completion of two action research courses with a focus on the school setting.

I began my Action Research journey reading, journaling, and conducting interviews of students and colleagues. Through that process I was able to identify themes which ran like ribbons through the work I was conducting in my classroom and school. Connecting this work to the literature and research helped me to find a purpose and track for my project. However, that did prove to be a challenging process which took many twists and turns throughout the project. The real need for reflective practice took precedence and moved to the forefront of my thinking rather than something which plays in the background of my usual day. Sagor spoke to this in our text when he spoke of our busy day to day life as an educator and how the “pace of school leaves little opportunity to engage in purposeful reflection.” (Sagor, p. 13) He suggested “to accomplish this (meaningful reflection) I must find a way to temporarily shut out all other distractions and create a time and space for the quality reflection necessary for zeroing in on a meaningful topic for action research.” (p.13) That was exactly what the Phase 1 portion of our class forced me to do and it was a valuable experience.

Next, during Phase 2 of our project I made my plan of implementation and rubrics upon which I would base the gathering of my data. This process helped me to hone in on what I was really looking for and what would show me that change was occurring. Narrowing down my variables was a daunting task. I tend to think of independent and dependent variables being part of a scientific controlled experiment. This being a behavioral science project which includes human subjects, it is impossible to control every variable. Yet, I was able through the reading and our work in class to identify my two achievement targets (change in dependent variable) and what my actions would be (independent variable). Sagor illustrated this relationship in the following table on page 62 –

Choice of Independent Variables = Change in the Dependent Variable
(our actions) (achievement target)

 

During Phase 3 we worked on our research questions and data collection plan. This is where the project began to take shape for me and I felt a much clearer and defined course of action. The 3 questions I used were directly from Sagor’s text –

  1. What did we actually do?
  2. What changes occurred regarding performance on the achievement targets?
  3. What were the relationships, if any, between the actions taken and any noted changes in performance? (p. 88)

I then began the implementation of my project. My implementation plan was side lined by several factors, but ultimately did produce results. My students moved from 76% at or above standard in discussion engagement and participation to 92% at or above standard. Answering question 3, determining the relationship between actions take and changes in performance, was the most difficult. I chose to rely on both the data and my own anecdotal evidence and intuition. Sagor supports this approach as well saying, “You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with the use of intuition in this context, even if you are a novice action researcher…you aren’t new to the world of the classroom.” (p. 148) This was the validation I needed to persevere in my answering of question 3.

In reflecting on this project one area became glaringly clear to me, especially after reading the section in Chapter 8 of the Sagor text “Allocating Time”. Sagor says, “Another valuable use of the data…is to determine if the actual expenditure of time was consistent with what you had anticipated when planning your project.” (Sagor, p. 131) He goes on to show a visual graph of anticipated time use vs. actual time use. One of my biggest pieces of learning from this project is that I over plan and schedule too much into our day. The pressure to keep up with curriculum and stay on track with district and CCSS is so high that any deviation from our plans is just not possible. It took eliminating one area of teaching, Problem of the Day (POD), to adequately implement this project. I had originally thought it would work into my ELA or science instruction, but that did not prove to be the case. In addition, I received a new student who is a Level 1 ELL and a recent immigrant from Iran. This in itself would have been a huge impact to our classroom and my teacher time, but he also has ended up being a very high management case with behavior issues that transcend the language issue. Many of my 10-15 minute blocks that I had carved out for my speaking and listening instruction were taken away by dealing with recess issues, receiving phone calls, and answering emails with regards to this student. I charted this time allocation in Figure 3.

The first question asks, what did we actually do? My project centered on student engagement and participation during partner and group discussion time. First, we began with having discussion times in various subject areas. Next, I shared with the students the rubrics for student engagement in discussion and participation. The students helped to fine tune the rubrics, adding details that they felt were important. I then had the students self-assess their speaking and listening during group discussion and set a goal for the level they would like to improve to. This is a similar process that we have done in preparation for our student goal setting conferences so my students were used to the process and for the most part gave an honest self-assessment. Following this baseline data collection, I began to instruct the students in various discussion techniques which included good questions, good comments, responsibility to participate, and everyone has a chance to speak. We realized that each student has two important jobs: listening carefully and participating thoughtfully. The class had previously used a process called “two pluses and a wish” for when we peer revise our writing. At a student’s suggestion I decided to apply this to our discussion time, but change it to “two comments and a wonder”. Students continued to self-assess and reflect each week.

Several positive changes occurred from the work we did. I tracked increased student engagement and positive contributions to discussions moving from 76% engaged to 92% engaged in the discussion time. (Figure 1) This was documented in a video journal and through teacher anecdotal notes. Student self-assessments of their speaking and listening skills also rose from a median score of 3.07 in the baseline data 3.61 in the final evaluation (out of a high of 4). (Figure 2) In addition, students moved more quickly into discussion time and many times did not want it to end. This is a change from before and not one that I had anticipated seeing.

The relationship of what we did to the changes that occurred seem to have a clear connection. Up until the implementation of the project, no positive progress had been made in my students’ engagement and participation during partner and group discussion time. The same kids participated and the same ones didn’t. This was my primary reason for pursuing this project. When I implemented the “two pluses and a wish” for peer revising I saw immediate positive results. This was what led me to want to pursue further instruction around listening and discussion strategies. Upon the teaching and implementation of “two comments and a wonder” I again saw a jump in their participation and engagement in the activity. While far from conclusive evidence, this did seem to have a direct relationship with the instruction being given during this action research project. My final conclusion was that providing instruction and clear guidelines and structure for their discussion led to increased student engagement and more productive conversations.

In reflecting on this project one area became glaringly clear to me, especially after reading the section in Chapter 8 of the Sagor text “Allocating Time”. Sagor says, “Another valuable use of the data…is to determine if the actual expenditure of time was consistent with what you had anticipated when planning your project.” (Sagor, p. 131) He goes on to show a visual graph of anticipated time use vs. actual time use. One of my biggest pieces of learning from this project is that I over plan and schedule too much into our day. The pressure to keep up with curriculum and stay on track with district and CCSS is so high that any deviation from our plans is just not possible. It took eliminating one area of teaching, Problem of the Day (POD), to adequately implement this project. I had originally thought it would work into my ELA or science instruction, but that did not prove to be the case. In addition, I received a new student who is a Level 1 ELL and a recent immigrant from Iran. This in itself would have been a huge impact to our classroom and my teacher time, but he also has ended up being a very high management case with behavior issues that transcend the language issue. Many of my 10-15 minute blocks that I had carved out for my speaking and listening instruction were taken away by dealing with recess issues, receiving phone calls, and answering emails with regards to this student. I charted this time allocation in Figure 3.

Figure 1 –

 

 

 

 

 

References:

Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams (2nd Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, United States of America: Corwin.

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.

 

TL Standard 9: Teacher leaders evaluate and use effective curriculum design

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.

TL Standard 12: Evaluate and Use Technology For Teaching and Learning

We started this class taking a self assessment of our technology integration in the classroom using the ISTE NETS for teachers (t) and students (s). I have to say I was shocked at how low I had to score myself. In taking the self-assessment I realized my weakest NETS were –

  • T1 – Facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity
  • T2 – Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
  • S1 – Creativity and Innovation
  • S3 – Research and Information Fluency
  • S4 – Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

I have always considered myself quite tech savvy and a quick learner. However, in the past few years technology integration in my classroom has been a challenge and one that I have not kept up with as well as I wish I had. My use in the classroom had been reduced to programs adopted by our school such as ARE and Reflex. Having taught 1st grade last year, logging on was a big accomplishment in itself and I had pushed aside the hopes of using more creative technology in the classroom. This year in 3rd grade my biggest obstacle has been time. With the new reading curriculum and all the other subjects we have to teach, getting enough netbook time to be creative and not just getting our AR tests done or Reflex minutes in (20 minutes 3x a week) has been the biggest challenge.

So as I looked at what we would learn in this class I was overwhelmed and unsure how I would ever use this knowledge and experience in my classroom and how would I ever meet those ISTE NET standards? Yet, here we are at the end of class and my biggest take-aways now are feeling accomplished and inspired! I can’t wait to use the tools we have learned in this class especially video production and wikis. I used my growth goal to prepare my students for these projects and get them the basics they would need to go further and be more creative in their use of technology. Sure we will still be doing ARE and Reflex, but those are teaching tools and not the sum of my technology instruction.

I have already seen growth in my students in the areas of creativity, problem solving,  and collaboration by using technology. They are excited to create, write, produce, and share their work using technology. They have moved from being very dependent and frustrated during netbook time to independent, collaborative, and risk takers in their learning. They aren’t afraid to try new things and if it goes wrong, they help each other solve the problem. I am excited to see that they aren’t dependent on me to solve these problems for them, but rather to guide them and ask questions so they can discover for themselves. Finally, technology instruction in my classroom doesn’t feel like just one more thing we do, it is truly embedded in much of what we do each day.

Yes, there is more I would love to try. The Flipped Classroom is a model that greatly inspires me, but would be a fundamental shift in what we do each day. I would love to build on my students natural collaboration though the use of discussion boards, wikis, and more on Haiku. I have already started building our Haiku site and plan to let the kids be part of the design and build as well.

EDTC 6433 will be a class that I truly use each day both in the classroom and in my other classes for our program. I am excited to see where it will take me.

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