It has been a wonderful first year at CTECH and the students have had some very exciting experiences. Below, see some examples of field trips, guest speakers, mentorships, hands-on activities, and labs that students have participated in this school year.
Our CTECH students have a lot to be proud of and it has been exciting to see the growth and learning that is taking place at CTECH each day. Again, if you haven’t been out to visit yet, please connect and come see what CTECH is all about!
This post brought to you by Erin Broviak, APOSA overseeing Career and Technical Education
Do your lessons need a vocabulary boost? Are you tired of using the same strategies to build vocabulary? If you are, you may want to try out these two strategies from the book Inside Words: Tools for Teaching Academic Vocabulary, Grades 4-12 by Janet Allen. It is chock full of ideas on how to build academic vocabulary.
Concept Circles is a vocabulary strategy where circles are divided into four sections. Each section contains a word or phrase that you would like to have students think, talk, or write about. It provides students the opportunity to “categorize words and justify the connections between and among words” (Allen, 13-14). It can be a great formative assessment tool or writing strategy. The teacher can give them the four words, or students choose their own four words and discuss why they are key to the topic they are studying. Students can shade the words that connect and tell why they connect and why the others don’t connect. Students could write a summary or paragraph using the words in the circle.
Here are two examples of Concept Circles:
Another terrific strategy from Allen’s book is called Categories and Labels (Allen 26-28). This strategy builds technical vocabulary that is necessary for students’ comprehension of a topic or story. It also builds background knowledge.
The teacher places specific words form a story, article or any reading material in a word bank. The teacher reads aloud each word in the word bank and students repeat the words back. Students can ask questions about the words, but the teacher should not provide exact definitions right away. The teacher may remind students where they can find information about the words (internet, apps, books, glossary, etc.). Students then form groups. The groups discuss the words and use resources to discover more about the words. The group categorizes the words into any logical group that they choose. The group then assigns a label to the group (i.e. adjective, location, refers to a person, etc.). The groups must justify their categories and labels to the other groups.
This can be a great background knowledge strategy where students have never seen the words before. It gives them the time to explore the words and make predictions as to what the story is about. It can also be used as a tool to dig deeper into words or as a formative assessment.
Vocabulary development is key for all students. Hopefully these two strategies will give a boost to your current vocabulary teaching!
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
Within most subjects, students are guided along a traditional progression of classes. For example, to succeed in AP Calculus, a student must have a solid grasp of Precalculus. This usually shifts the focus in Precalculus to bringing all students up to an acceptable level of performance. In this pursuit of universal proficiency, the richness of various concepts in Precalculus is glossed over. Beautiful ideas like roots of unity and rotated conics are ditched in favor of important, but often dull, topics such as trigonometric proofs and graph behavior.
At the same time, every class has a handful of students who “get” what is being taught. They don’t need the 10th worksheet or the 100th flashcard. They scoff at busywork and routinely balance incomplete homework assignments with perfect test scores. Simply put, they are bored. How do we engage them while not diverting attention from struggling students? If only there was some interesting material they could explore independently!
Halfway through my own Precalculus class, I found a textbook that explored the aforementioned skipped topics. I asked my teacher if I could replace classroom material with problems from this textbook and she agreed. Following this, I was no longer paying attention in class or doing regular homework assignments. Nor was I playing games on my cellphone. Instead, I was developing my problem-solving skills--without hurting anyone else’s learning! My interest in more advanced mathematics grew out of those experiences and three years later, I went on to win the Math League State Tournament.
From my own experiences, I have found it common for independent learning projects to foster newfound passions. However, I don’t believe this is a unique result. Because independent projects allow for rigorous exploration and hands-on engagement, these create meaningful academic experiences--the sort that can cascade into new interests.
I believe these independent projects break down into two categories: short-term projects and long-term projects.
Short-term projects are experiences that supplement classroom material. Suppose one of your students is genuinely excited by something being discussed in class. An alternative project, replacing traditional assignments, could help them further this interest. For example, in homework assignments for my AP Calculus class, I would often find interesting problems ripe for additional thought. Not only did my calculus teacher encourage this sort of academic excursion, but he routinely joined in this exploration as an equal; together, we would discover something new—no matter how trivial—that neither of us had seen before.
Long-term projects are broader and more extensive. These might take the form of an Independent Study at the high school level, which confers credit for a more formal course plan. These have been instrumental in my high school experience. I have studied material not offered in the district, including calculus-based physics and post-calculus mathematics. I have also taken on big projects, such as creating a new algorithmic ranking system and starting a podcast--Solving Systems—with a JM teacher (you should definitely check it out!). These Independent Studies were intellectually stimulating and extremely enjoyable. Projects like these require more forethought, but could easily become a student’s most rewarding high school experience.
How do you set up an independent project with a student? Regardless of the scope, there are a few essential steps:
Instead of prodding successful students into classes and assignments they find easy, we should encourage them to create their own opportunities. Whether it be breaking out of a prescribed curriculum or creating one’s own curriculum, there are numerous venues for worthwhile challenges. As Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, “There is no greater education than one that is self-driven.” We can start by putting a few students in the driver’s seat, allowing them to steer their education toward what they desire.
This post brought to you by Nikhil Marda, Senior at John Marshall High School
Feel free to connect with Marda via email
One of the most powerful things we can do for readers is to listen to them read, give them feedback, and help them set goals for themselves regarding something they can improve. The trickiest part of this is carving out time to listen to individual readers when you see many students within a day. Below are two structures that work well for quick conferencing with readers.
One Minute Reading Conferences
Students benefit from getting timely feedback about their reading practice. Some studies say that feedback is the #1 factor in improving student achievement. One minute conferences can be an effective and efficient way to get meaningful feedback to all of your students.
Tell students that you will be conducting one minute conferences. The whole class will begin reading as usual and when you come to them they will begin whisper reading. You will be listening to hear if the book is the right level for the reader and will be listening for how fluently s/he is reading. After listening for this you will also ask a question about what is being read to gauge comprehension. S/he will receive a score of 3, 2, or 1 for each part of the conference:
Additionally, here are some possible comprehension questions to ask students:
Sticky Note Status Check
Many student benefit from more regular feedback on their reading. This is a way to provide feedback and improve motivation for those students who may struggle with reading stamina.
Keep notes on which students can do all three and you have a great formative assessment.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
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