As we make our final preparations to welcome a new crop of students into our classrooms, I would like to begin the year by sharing a few of the items that I curated over the summer.
- Making It Stick. A new book rethinks the hard distinction many teachers make between ‘memorizing’ and ‘thinking’ is an article that was actually published in April on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. I ran across the article after having already found and read the book Make it Stick that is the subject of the article. If you are intrigued by the article, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the book.
- Four Key Questions about Grading is a piece that appeared on the Faculty Focus website that offers a summary of a longer article that appeared in the summer edition of the Cell Biology Education – Life Sciences Education journal. Given the centrality of grading in education, the article is certainly relevant for most all teachers and their work with students.
- Giving Student Feedback: 20 Tips To Do It Right is a piece that was actually posted in the summer of 2013 that came across my Twitter stream this August. Good reminders about the purpose and value of giving feedback as we begin the school year.
- The Five Habits of Creative Teachers is an article that appeared on Education Week website in August that caught my eye. I was particularly intrigued by the link at the end of the article to join in on a free canvas course on the topic starting in October. I signed up and hope that a few of you might join me.
Enjoy the beginning of your school year!
Moms: Our First Real Teachers
It would be difficult for most of us to deny that the first “teacher” we all had was our own mom. Who was there when we learned how to tie our shoes? Who taught us to believe in ourselves? Who taught us to always say please and thank you? Mom of course…and maybe Dad if you were lucky. So while Teacher Appreciation Week is technically over today, if you are lucky enough to still have your own mom around, I encourage you to extend the sentiment and be sure to pay a special tribute to your first “teacher” this Sunday – Mother’s Day. Personally, I think it is a perfect juxtaposition of the two celebrations.
This week’s Friday 4 includes two pieces to get you thinking a tad and a couple of resources for those of you looking for some online options for ongoing professional development in the summer.
- Bringing the Locker Room Into the Classroom is a piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education that was passed along by a colleague who happens to be both a teacher and a coach. I have always thought of coaching and teaching as one and the same and liked the collaborative project that is described in the article.
Response: ‘The Grading System We Need to Have’ is a blog piece from Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo) that appeared on the Education Week Teacher site. Larry is a well-known teacher, author and presence online who is definitely one you should follow on Twitter.
Are you an AP teacher looking for resources, ideas or fellow AP teachers to collaborate with beyond your own school? The AP Teacher Community is a great place to start. The summer is a great time to connect with colleagues from around the country and share ideas.
- The Teaching Channel is another rich online resource and network of educators. The site describes itself as: “Teaching Channel is a video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America’s schools. We have a rapidly growing community of registered members who trade ideas and share inspiration from each other.”
How many times over the years have I read student work and thought “They clearly didn’t get it. This is not what I was expecting. How could they have not understood what was expected of them for this assignment?” In my current role, I have worked with many teachers experiencing the same problem. I have seen the script play out in the classroom countless times and am no longer surprised by the confusion and frustration that is oftentimes the result.
Fortunately, I have had these thoughts less and less over the years for a couple of reasons. The first and most significant reason is that I have been fortunate enough to team teach my classes in the past few years with a trusted colleague, Naomi Appel (@njappel). Together we have rewritten and redesigned most of the course materials and spent a considerable amount of time improving the wording and instructions on the assignments we give. We have also gotten better at spending more time before students create work helping them to understand what “excellent” work looks like. We have become big fans of providing exemplars of student work and taking the time to assess and evaluate the examples with our students before they start their own work. A recent example will help to illustrate what I mean.
A recent assignment required our students to write a letter back to a fictional Dr. Knowsitall who had asked for their assistance with a lab-based problem. In their letter, they needed to describe the procedures they carried out in the lab with “enough but not too much detail.” The amount of detail was different than if they were writing for a less scientifically literate audience since Dr. Knowsitall is a learned woman with a great deal of scientific training and experience. (They are beginning to think that she does not actually “know it all” since they have had to help her a few times already this year!) Rather than assume that the students knew exactly what “enough but not too much detail” meant and rather than simply describing what we meant by the concept, we projected several examples from past student papers and took the time to assess the pieces with our current students. We perform a “Goldilock’s analysis” of the example:
Where did the writer include too much detail?
Where did the writer not include enough detail?
How could you improve this sentence or section and make it “just right”?
The process definitely takes time but has been well worth it in the long run. Most students are capable of meeting or exceeding the academic target if they actually know what that target looks like. Contrary to what some critics may think, providing concrete examples does not stifle creativity or spoon-feed the students too much; it frees them to focus on the execution of the goal rather than wonder if they are giving the teacher “what he/she wants” on the assignment.
I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Friday Four – Jan 27
The end of the week snuck up on me, as it sometimes does, and prevented me from posting my weekly Friday 4 on Friday. I guess I will have to ask for an extension and hope for some leniency! I am pretty sure that the your life went on just fine in the absence of the Friday 4, but I did not want to completely let you down, so here is my somewhat belated Friday 4 for the week that will in all likelihood end before I finish typing this post.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a big fan and user of Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) in the classroom and with my students. I ran across 2 great resources this past week having to do with Google Drive that I wanted to pass along.
- The first is a post from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne), who writes the FreeTech4Teachers blog, titled “Five Essential Google Drive Skills For Teachers.” If you are a new user of Google Drive, this is the post for you. If you are already a user of Drive, you may still be able to pick up a tip or two from this post.
- The second Drive-related item is a short video explaining how you can use a neat Chrome plugin called WeVideo with your Google Drive to create, edit and share videos all for FREE.
The last two items for the week are more reflective in nature.
- Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) wrote a post recently “Building a professional learning network on Twitter” that explains how educators can harness the power of Twitter for their own ongoing professional development. If you are new to Twitter and have not yet “found” Tom, I would strongly recommend that you add him to your “follow” list.
- Marc Seigel (@DaretoChem) is another person I follow on Twitter who is a fellow flipped-classroom teacher. He recently wrote a blog post that resonated with me that I hope you will find interesting.
Enjoy and have a wonderful final week of January!
A Fall Cornucopia
This week’s Friday 4 is an eclectic collection of items from a busy week here at Loomis Chaffee. While there is no single theme that connects the items, I am hopeful that at least one of the threads will be of interest to you.
- Given the fact that it is midterm time here, I have had many discussions with colleagues about grades and how we assess and evaluate students and their work. Ever since I heard Rick Wormeli (@RickWormeli) speak at an ASCD meeting a few years ago and read his book “Fair Isn’t Always Equal”, I have thought quite differently about my grading philosophy and policies. Fortunately, you can read several pieces from Rick and see several videos from him at the the Stenhouse publishing site dedicated to Free Assessment and Grading Resources from Rick Wormeli. (You will have to register for a free account in order to access some of the info.)
- I referenced Daniel Willingham’s (@DTWillingham) blog and latest book in a recent post and was pleased to see the Fall edition of the American Educator magazine feature an excerpt from his book. You can download the piece here in which Willingham explains how to analyze and dissect educational research.
- Followers of the Friday 4 will know that I am a regular reader of Tom Whitby’s (@tomwhitby) blog “My Island View.” Tom recently wrote about his thoughts on the current state of professional development in education and the need to change the model and make PD “evolving and continuous.”
- Jut over a month ago in the Sept 14 Friday 4, I encouraged people to join me in the Power Searching with Google MOOC. Well, I can report today that I was able to successfully finish the course and received my certificate of completion via e-mail yesterday. While there was a great deal in the course that I was already familiar with, I did learn a whole bunch of neat tricks and tips for searching with Google that will make me a more efficient and powerful searcher. The course is officially over now, but you will be able to access the videos and course materials beginning Monday, Oct 15 at this link. The ability to locate quality, reliable information on the internet is a critical skill these days that we need to know how to do both for ourselves and so that we can help our students navigate the increasingly information dense world we live in.
Enjoy and as always, please do not hesitate to leave comments or suggestions for future Friday 4 editions.