On August 30, 2017 I participated in two Prioritized Learning staff development sessions: one for for secondary math and one for secondary science. The instructional strategies introduced in the sessions were used with the intent of engaging all of the participants in discussions surrounding formative assessments in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) instruction. The deep discussions fostered through the intentional use of peer grouping got me thinking about how the professionals in S.T.E.M. related careers interact with each other.
The power of communication and collaboration in S.T.E.M. careers cannot be overstated as almost all S.T.E.M. professionals advance understanding of the world through Social interaction with Teams to better Explain our Material world. (Did I really just create another acronym?) Here is another one to help to make the point for using interactive formative assessments in S.T.E.M. classes. You can A.D.D. clarity to your formal assessment of student understanding by giving the students in the class opportunities to Articulate his/her understanding/misunderstanding through Discourse and Discussion. (Oops! I did it again.)
Many of the examples below come from ideas I gathered at the two Prioritized Learning sessions I attended yesterday.
(Resources for all of the strategies listed can be found on our C & I website under the ‘Resources’ tab then by clicking on ‘Materials from Past C&I Professional Development Sessions.’)
Using Graphic Organizer Formatives (like K-W-L) in S.T.E.M. Courses
Graphic organizer formatives are an easy way to formatively assess student learning as they can be used as exit tickets after the lesson. The K-W-L graphic organizer. (Okay…I promise no additional acronyms.) is really handy for teachers as they can quickly assess what students Know, What they want to learn, and finally what they Learned from a reading, a laboratory activity, or a rich mathematical task. A teacher can quickly assess the prior knowledge of students before the activity and use the K-W-L as an exit slip to formatively assess learning after the lesson.
Additionally, there are a variety of graphic organizers that you can modify to suit the needs of your S.T.E.M lesson. Find some great ones by searching for "Graphic Organizers" on the website Read Write Think.
Group Discussion Formatives (like Save the Last Word for Me ) in S.T.E.M. Courses
Group discussion formatives foster cognitive discourse by giving students time to process written and video information. S.T.E.M. teachers can also use discussion formats to help students think about and discuss the rich tasks and laboratory activities used. Give the students a chance to individually think about something they have read, a problem they have solved, or a lab they have completed. For instance, the Save the Last Word for Me discussion format (shown below) can easily be used for the questions that you have already created in your lab activity or other rich task.
One possible way to formatively assess with this strategy is to have the teacher collect/read the group answers to the questions posed. This process is effective when using rich open ended questions. As an added benefit, the teacher assessment time is reduced so s/he can comment on group thinking and give students the constructive feedback they need to advance their learning.
A possible process to follow would be (modified from above):
Student Communication Formatives (such as Think, Pair, Share and SUPU/PUPU) in S.T.E.M. Courses
The Prioritized Learning Session included many ideas for mixing up student groups to encourage and foster discussion and discourse. The grouping placements used in this session included: Compass Collaborative; Think, Pair, Share; and SUPU/PUPU—or ‘Stand-Up, Pair-Up’ and ‘Pair-Up, Pair-Up’. (I know, I used another acronym, but I couldn't help myself because it is kind of funny.) As stated above, S.T.E.M. professionals need to be able to communicate with their peers and using mixed-up groupings allows teachers to formatively assess each student's ability to collaborate and communicate effectively.
Whether using the first or second acronym for S.T.E.M. the instructional strategies used in the Prioritized Learning sessions were intended to give teachers additional tools to formatively assess and foster student learning through discourse. When we fail to have our students A.D.D. in S.T.E.M classes, we S.U.B.tract from their learning. (In case you are wondering: Subdue, Undermine, and Burden them to learn individually. Sorry but, I just had to end with an acronym.)
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
An Exploration of the 2017 New Staff Orientation for Secondary Staff
Starting something new is difficult—it doesn’t matter if you’re starting a new job, starting a new relationship, or starting a new passion project. Greater still is that what makes starting out as a new teacher extra difficult is that it’s all three of these: it’s a job, yes, but our work as educators also requires strong relationships and a passion for learning. For this reason our RPS Curriculum and Instruction team strives to help ensure that our new hires have the foundation they need to start on day one.
Both yesterday and today, my secondary C&I colleagues worked in collaboration with instructional coaches, equity specialists, and district administrators to welcome over 40 new middle and high school educators to the Rochester Public Schools. In our orientation we did our best to cover all three of these areas. Here are a few of the highlights:
Doing the job itself
Fostering a passion for learning
All three woven together
So, sure, starting something new is difficult, but hopefully after the last few days of orientation it’s not too overwhelming: even though I I know that’s a lot to squeeze into four days. But, perhaps Rita Pierson said it best in her 2003 Ted Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” when she said:
To explore the handouts and presentations used during the secondary portions of the 2017 New Staff Orientation, click here. (In order to access this link you will need to be logged in to your RPS Google Account: ...@isd535.org.)
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
As a young, inexperienced teacher I remember wondering what my first day of class should look and feel like. In my first school district, the first day was only a half-day and veteran teachers advised, “ Oh, you only have twenty minutes so just hand out your syllabus and lay down the law. You don’t have time to do anything else.” I tried that method and learned that I had missed a huge opportunity to build community and get to know my students on the first day. After learning my lesson the hard way, I started to prioritize relationships from day one.
Here are three of the best methods that I’ve observed or tried personally for getting to know students from the first minute of class on the first day:
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The teacher (that’s me) greets students as they make their way to the door.
Students are a lot like adults in that their anxiety level is raised when they are about to meet a new person. By greeting each student, I take care of this anxious moment quickly and help the student put a face with the name. I continue to greet the students at the door as the year progresses. The greeting also allows me to give quick instructions to students who may have been, or soon will be, gone from class.
The room is arranged in double rows allowing for a quick share/pair with a partner or a lab group discussion. The student’s name is written on an index card on his/her assigned seat. There is also a handout entitled: “Class Rules for Conduct and Grading” set out for easy access.
Giving a student an assigned seat to start the period has many advantages that help to support student learning. The teacher knows where his/her students are so that (s)he can quickly and efficiently take roll and the student knows that you have a place reserved for them and that (s)he can quickly get started on the warm-up activity for the day. A seating chart gives the students a predictable starting position and allows the teacher to easily transition to the day’s activities. As opposed to a seating chart, a seating arrangement only informs the teacher and class of the location of desks. No matter the seating arrangement, I always have the students start the day in an assigned seat.
(To read more about various seating arrangements, please visit our previous posts entitled “Room Arrangement Matters”.)
“Objective: To learn the first few of our class routines as a foundation for future learning.”
“Assignment: Record the homework assignment in your notebook/planner..."
After taking attendance, I turn the class’s attention towards me with a raised hand and an attention getter. I pause for a moment and then tell the class that we will start each day with assigned seats and a warm up. I then formally introduce myself to the whole class and then state two truths and a lie about me. I pause for them to guess as to which is the lie and them talk about my truths.
I have students pair with their elbow buddy and take turns listing two truths and a lie. I give the students a few minutes to go through the process. I will use the same attention getter when it is time to end the activity. I collect the index cards and keep them for reference.
With this simple routine, the students see that there will be steps to follow when going in and out of groups. The same procedure is used for each activity that the class will do throughout the year. I describe the activity and make sure the students know how I plan to get their attention for transition to the next activity.
A well planned first day lays the groundwork for the coming days by helping our students know that you are a teacher who has a place for them in class and that you will use procedures and routines to assist them in their learning.
You’re sitting high in a stylist’s chair getting a haircut when your stylist asks, scissors paused, “So what do you do with three full months of free time?”
You’re waiting in a crazy-long line and killing time by chatting with another waiting beside you. Upon learning you’re in education this stranger notes, “It must be nice to be paid 12 months a year for only 9 months of work.”
As a facilitator of ‘Pages on the Patio’, a professional development opportunity that has been meeting over the summer with an average of 20+ attendees at each session, I am reminded of how much teachers do over summer “break” despite what those outside our field sometimes believe. Those attending ‘Pages on the Patio’ often share with me what classes they are taking during the summer months, what new textbooks and resources they are exploring, what summer classes/programs they are teaching, and/or what education-related books they have been reading (in addition to the ones they bring to our sessions). Clearly, “summers off” is a misnomer.
One benefit of meeting off-site rather than in a district building for ‘Pages on the Patio’ is that community members get to see us working in the summer: they get to see a glimpse of what our summers really look like. Over the course of our four sessions thus far more than a dozen different community members have stopped by to ask us what we are doing—sometimes thanking us for what we do, often times showing surprise that we are working in the summertime. A reminder of how many people think educators simply shut down during the summer months.
So, I took a poll (it wasn’t a very well executed poll, mind you—I simply posed a question on my Facebook page and on my Twitter account) and gathered some of what it is our teachers in the Rochester Public Schools are doing with their “free time” this summer.
Want to know what educators do with their summers “off”? Well, they are:
- Working on learning the curriculum for courses that they’ve not taught before but will be teaching next year
- Collaborating with other teachers (co-planning for next year, creating shared handouts, developing common formative assessments, helping pass the torch to someone teaching a new prep, etc.)
- Taking MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to understand more fully their course content
- Writing grants to support various extracurricular programs
- Serving on interview teams for new teachers and/or administrators who are being hired
- Attending summer professional development opportunities such as trainings for teaching the highly gifted, Love & Logic retreats, ‘Pages on the Patio’ sessions, classes on mindfulness, MAGE (MN Alliance for Geographic Education) seminars, the upcoming training on how to become a better co-teaching team, the FIRST Institute in Kasson, etc.
- Hitting up local back to school sales to purchase supplies for the classroom, specifically for students who cannot afford to buy their own supplies
- For each prep, sketching out plans for the coming school year
- Revamping lessons to make them more culturally relevant
- Teaching in one of RPS’s many summer programs
- Planning to attend the Data Retreat in August
- Working on committee assignment tasks in preparation for the 2017-2018 school year
- Reading education-related books and blogs
- Listening to education-related podcasts
- Taking graduate courses/completing internship hours to fulfill various licensure requirements
Plus, many teachers shared that they use the summer to catch up on those items that during the stress and chaos of the school year simply don’t get done:
- Purchasing and/or moving into new homes
- Squeezing in visits to the doctor, dentist, optometrist, etc.
- Cleaning their homes from top to bottom
- Getting back on track with exercise programs and healthy eating
- Meeting with their financial advisors
- Doing large scale home projects, such as roofing and painting their houses, renovating kitchens and bathrooms, building a new deck or laying a patio
- Taking a much-needed family vacation
Of course, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the number of teachers who use the summer to work a full or part-time job: earning a little bit of extra money to help them make ends meet during the school year.
An added note is that educators NEED to take some time off. The school year is hard. It’s really stressful. Teachers have to be on-the-ball eight hours a day for five days a week and then plan what/how they’re going to teach, provide students with feedback on assignments, contact parents, attend meetings, etc.—often outside of that eight hours a day/five days a week time frame. When students leave the building in early June most teachers are spent. Educators need time to reconnect with family, to disconnect from the classroom, to re-center themselves. To de-stress so that in the fall they’re ready to take on the world head on.
So, know that I notice. Know that my Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team notices. Know that we know your students—who likely won’t not notice—benefit from all that you do.
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Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.
Analysis & Inquiry
Grading For Learning
Instructional Learning Formats
Planning For A Sub
Quality Of Feedback
Regard For S's Perspective