The end of the school year is a great time to get some feedback from your students and also support them in reflecting on their strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Here are a few of my favorite ways to get students reflecting. An added bonus with these activities is that they can also be used as a formative assessment for you, the teacher!
Project a crackling bonfire up on your LCD projector. If you have 1/1 iPads students can also bring bonfires on their screens. Have students sit in a circle and play some of the following campfire games:
End of Year Focus Group
First give students time to respond to the following reflective questions in writing:
Advice for Next Year’s Students
Put up a piece of butcher paper and let students share advice for next year’s students. Often, you get a great mix of serious and funny bits of advice.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
A Teacher's Perspective on the 2017 MCTM Conference
Attending the MCTM math conference in Duluth really got me thinking about math identity. How do we build up our students' math identity rather than just divide them into math and non-math people? On the last morning of the conference, I attended a session that helped me really think about that in some new ways.
The session was called Instructional Strategies to Promote Positive Math Identity and the presenter is a teacher in the the Anoka-Hennepin school district. She started by walking us through an activity where she asked us each to write our math-ography.
We answered the following questions:
It was really interesting just to see how the different adults did this activity. I’m a pretty linear thinker, so I divided my paper into 4 sections and answered each question in a different section. I saw others that wrote lists or paragraphs, while others drew pictures. It didn’t matter how we did it, it still got us thinking and then talking about math. Often, there isn’t enough of that happening in most of our math classrooms.
I have been thinking about how I could use this in my own classroom. I think that I would adapt the questions some for my students: for example, I think that I might change the question about where they want their math journey to go to something more specific about goals. I have done something similar to this in the past during the first week of school, but I like this idea of presenting it as a 'math journey' better.
Plus, having students write in math is something that I struggle with as a teacher and this activity helps to address that--not that all students would need to approach this as a writing assignment.
The presenter also suggested having the students do this more than just during that first week of school--having them revisit throughout the year. Personally, I love this idea! I think that I’d like my students to do this activity three times a year, during the first week, at the end of first semester, and again at the end of the year. I would love to see if kids view math differently at the end of my class. Of course, I want my students to know, understand, and be able to apply the standards that I teach, but I also work to build their confidence in math, and I hope that I can instill at least a little bit of the love that I have for math in them. I think that this might give me just as much information about the growth of my students and the effect of my teaching as giving a survey at the end of the year.
I also took away many other ideas from the conference to use in my classroom. Some are ideas about specific activities to do, especially around the idea of math discourse in class, others are about changing the way that I approach what and how I’m teaching. For me, the best part of going to a conference or taking time to work and plan with other math teachers is challenging myself to look at things differently, to try to stretch and grow in my teaching. I hope that I never stop learning or stop trying to improve.
If you’re anything like the me-of-two-years-ago, your desk has a growing stack of books and professional magazines that you keep intending to read and you’ve accumulated an ever-growing list of books and blogs that you want to check out eventually. Over time, your stack has grown and the list gets longer; in the meantime, you’ve rarely made a dent in the stack—rarely crossed a title off the list.
It’s not surprising that I, an educator, have a thirst for learning new things. A thirst resulting in tall stacks and long lists of ‘Must Reads’. However, since I am an educator, it’s also not surprising that I often find it a challenge to carve out the time to learn all the new things I want to learn—to carve out the time to read.
Lucky for you, the me-of-today has stumbled upon a few tools and structures over the past few years that have greatly changed my ability to tackle professional reading. My book and magazine stack has gotten shorter. I’ve actually begun to cross a few titles off my ever-growing list.
Rethink your Resources
During the school year my schedule is packed. How does a busy educator squeeze in a 250+ page book about educational best practices when there are classes to teach, lessons to plan, assessments to develop, data to comb through, IEP meetings to attend, parents to contact...? Most of the time, you can't. So, skip the 'book', but still do the learning.
My approch to during-the-school-year professional reading became much more managable when I embraced other ways to access new learning.
Schedule Time to Read
This may seem like an obvious statement; but, at least for me, it's easier to say than do.
Sometimes, I need to sit down and read a physical book or magazine. When the book isn't available in an audio version or if I need to annotate the text as a way to read it critically, then I simply need to schedule time in my calendar to read. If I don't, it likely won't get read.
Some scheduling tips:
Utilize a Professional Learning Network
For me, it's easier to actually get some reading done if I have someone to hold me accountable: this is the benefit of having a Professional Learning Network (PLN) that reads together.
In addition to the technology resources mentioned above (OverDrive, Audible, podcasts, calendar reminders, etc.), consider using a resource like Feedly to help manage any blogs that you want to check out on a regular basis. If you would like to learn more about this resource, check out this previously written blogpost.
Wondering what to read?
Looking for other ideas for how to manage professional reading?
Consider checking out our #RPSLead Twitter Chat that took place on May 17, 2017.
Should you have any questions about the resources named above, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to help you tackle your professional reading, maybe even become a part of your PLN. Until then, hopefully some of these ideas from the me-of-today will help you the way they did the me-of-two-years-ago.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
It’s that time of year again. The birds are chirping. The grass is green. My allergies are flaring. And, I’ve put away my winter clothes. Spring is here, Rochester, and that means summer is right around the corner!
Ah, summer. That perfect time of year when we recharge our batteries, spend time with loved ones, stay up late (or wake up early if you’re not me), and take trips to the cabin or places unknown yet long awaited. My stress level decreases at just the thought of it all.
Not everyone, however, shares my outlook for summer. For many of our students, summer becomes a time of great uncertainty. What will I do today? Where will I go? Will I be alone? Will there be anything to eat?
Many students in our community look at summer as anything but the ‘perfect time of year’. Their summers are filled with babysitting siblings, looking for food, spending unstructured time alone or trying to find a place to escape the heat of their air condition-less homes or apartments.
This is not the summer I want for any student in our community.
For over five years, I have been researching, advocating for and working to implement the community schools model at three of our Rochester Public Schools sites: Gage Elementary, Riverside Central Elementary, and the Rochester Alternative Learning Center. The community school is a strategy for organizing school and community resources for student success. This strategy makes explicit that in order to significantly improve the academic and developmental outcomes of children, schools and community partners must work together to ensure that all students have an equitable opportunity to succeed in school.
There are seven principles that guide the community schools approach to school transformation. They are:
So, what does this look like at our three Rochester Community School sites?
It looks like community schools site facilitators placed at each site, housed within a family resource center and charged with being the connector for the site. The site facilitator connects families to engagement and volunteer opportunities, community partners to new and exciting (usually hands on) ways to address content standards, students to resources necessary for success (e.g. school supplies, a healthy snack, winter boots, a mentor) and staff to additional resources and professional development supports. But, that’s not all! Connections between all stakeholders continue to grow and flourish due to the support of the site facilitator.
It looks like community partners coming together to address students’ needs. The United Way of Olmsted County serves as our backbone partner; providing us human resources and greater outreach to the Rochester community. This year, we co-hosted our first Rochester Community Schools and United Way professional development training on Results Based Accountability. This two day training included RPS staff and partners from over 15 partner organizations. Moving forward, we are formalizing our partnership onboarding and accountability plans so that community schools sites and partners can deepen their focus in order to impact student achievement.
It looks like an environment where students are at the center. Students are supported by opportunities like powerful learning experiences, integrated health and social supports, and authentic family and community engagement. Collaborative practices like engaged stakeholders, shared ownership and decision making, data-driven planning and resource coordination make these opportunities successful. The results of this focus are college, career and civic-ready students, strong families, and a healthy community.
In the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) we are charged with “providing all children significant opportunity to receive fair, equitable and high-quality education to close educational achievement gaps.” I believe that the community schools strategy offers a framework to meet this challenge. Our three ‘hubs’ are continue to growth and develop as they respond to student need. If there is a barrier in the way of student success, diverse stakeholder teams are working together to address it. Students’ needs are being met and the entire community is pitching in.
So, back to summer. How will we be addressing the inequities that summer brings? We’ll be using our ‘hubs’ to open the buildings to students and families. Our resource rooms will have open hours. We will partner with the Rochester Public Library and Channel One to go into the community and read and do hands on learning activities with students and provide summer snack bags. We will have planned family engagement events. We will have planned professional development opportunities for staff and community partners. We will meet with community partners to continue partnership planning and development.
We will keep students at the center.
If you would like more information, please feel free to stop by one of our community school sites. They are always excited to share the work that they’re doing! Plus, the Coalition for Community Schools website is very informative.
Keep Climbing the Stairs of Inquiry to Prevent Slip Sliding Away
I don’t know about you, but to me this Paul Simon song makes a whole lot of sense in May. The seniors are sliding, the juniors are jelly, the sophomores are slumping, and the freshmen haven’t changed (**wink**).
So what can we do about the slip-slide? Well, we have to keep moving upward or we will begin to slide backward. A cursory internet search under “things that teachers do at the end of the school year to keep students engaged” will link you to site after site that often suggest you get students out of their seats and into some inquiry based learning. Inquiry based learning is all about giving students the freedom to investigate, explore, probe, examine, review, analyze a question or problem. Structures like Learning Menus and Tic-Tac-Toe Boardsare excellent frameworks for inquiry activities that help teachers organize inquiry activities so each student (or group of students) is guided down a path that allows for choice without compromising on depth of knowledge. In fact, the last line of Paul Simon's song, as shown below, is less likely to occur if we keep the students engaged, which we can certainly do through inquiry based learning.
As an added bonus, our blog post “Individualized Learning through Independent Projects” written by Nikhil Marda (a senior at John Marshall High School), published in April of 2017, gives a student perspective on why inquiry based learning is important and how it engages students.
Song lyrics from: Simon, Paul. Slip Slidin’ Away. Columbia Records, 1977.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
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