Monday, April 8, 2013

Do Grades Matter?

In working with my students, I've been struggling with whether or not to give grades.  Since I can look up the opinions on either side of the argument and get no where I would rather use this time to reflect on my own experiences with students in my class.  We have just completed a project where students had the opportunity to create scale models of various objects.  For a project like this, there was a posed hypothesis by a colleague saying that there won't be any way of predicting who will actually complete the project because some "A-Students" will not turn anything in, and others who do not perform academically will blossom with such a project.

Well our project was due this past week and sure enough, there was a wide range of achievements.  Some students brought in fantastic projects and others brought in projects thrown together at the last minute.  The surprising thing was that the students' achievement had no correlation with their current grades in the class.  The lowest grades in the class did turn in projects and some work.  Other students who had solid grades did not turn anything in, and every combination of the possible grades and progress on the project seemed to manifest itself.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Reflections on Classroom Management

In response to my piece about group work, found here Reflections on Group Work  I have been modifying my classroom management as well.  I have been editing some practices regarding classroom arrangement, volume, rules, behavior and relationships with parents.

Classroom Arrangement: The classroom is arranged in such a way that the students are in groups. In such groups, the students are able to have academic discourse and receive peer support without having to move throughout the room and cause additional disturbances.

Classroom Volume: In order to avoid student side conversations, when I am talking with the class I stop whenever there is anyone talking and do not continue until everyone is attentive. I do this so students recognize that there needs to be a manageable volume before proceeding in a lesson, and that when the teacher is talking it is important. This realization would not happen if the students felt that talking while the teacher was talking, even quietly, was acceptable.

Classroom Rules: The classroom rules are not something I write on the board, nor do I feel the need to go over a syllabus with the students. I simply make it known that the students understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. If there is any confusion, it will be pointed out during class. But I rely on the students to monitor themselves.

Promoting Good Behavior: When the students behave in a positive way, I make a point of pointing it out to their group or to the class. This is important for students to identify which behaviors are desirable in the class but also in order to set up intrinsic motivators for students to perform positively.

Phone Calls Home: It will also be important to frequently call home regarding positive behavior students administer in the classroom. This allows parents to recognize the progress their child is making and also bring additional unity between the school and the community it serves. This way, the students will be able to associate the school with positive feedback as well and not simply negative consequences.

Correcting Behavior: In order to correct undesirable behavior in the classroom, the students are to act in the opposite way of the undesirable behavior but this needs to come in collaboration with the student. For example, if a student has offended his group members he can write a letter of apology to each of his group members or perform acts of kindness towards them like bringing them snacks or retrieving assignments for them. In any case, the corrective behavior needs to come from the student, in collaboration with the teacher.

Monday, November 26, 2012

blog post 5

This semester I have been surprised by the literacy levels of my students.  They are able to analyze mathematical word problems in their homework independently and put together complicated directions to figure out what they need to be working on.  They are not able to do this extensively however.  They have not been able to pull out relevant information from more extensive word problems and problems of the week.

September 30, 2013
My literacy-rich classroom for math would involve students analyzing directions and given text to find the math behind them.  My students will be engaged analyzing math within situations throughout their lives and the current events in society.  They are reading over current events and using their math analysis tools to work through goals within the text.  They are writing reflections on their learning on a daily basis as well as their thinking process in solving these math problems.

December 15, 2013
My literacy rich classroom has students analyzing more complicated problems and has students who are reading problems of the week in groups.  The students are engaged in developing methods of analyzing problems and developing new strategies to measure justice in their social environment.  They are reading articles about how to measure social justice using mathematics and mathematical breakthroughs in the field.  Students are writing reflections on their process of thinking, math essays and notes on readings about math breakthroughs.  They are discussing with their group all of these things and sharing their learnings in group discussions.

May 30, 2013
My literacy rich classroom has a series of texts and current events that students have analyzed and are now creating portfolios based on their learnings.  Students are engaged in finalizing their research and are reflecting on their development throughout the year.  Students are capable of independent learning in their analysis of current events and justice issues.  Students have developed methods to test fairness and can look for accuracy and truth in their own studies of society.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Speak Up Reports Reflection

In working with my students I have seen them use their cell phones for research, social networking, and academic support.  It is clear from the Speak Up Report "Learning in the 21st Century Mobile Devices + Social Media = Personalized Learning" that we are headed to classrooms with mobile devices and we need to, as educators, learn how to use these devices to educate.  Students have these amazing tools at their disposal, parents want their students to learn about how to use the devices, and teachers need to learn how to implement them in a classroom.  In my own teaching, I know I have to start developing methods and strategies to take advantage of the learning opportunities that mobile devices offer such as research, classroom forums, and anything else that the students and I come up with.

In my investigation of the Speak Up student panel video regarding technology in the classroom, I felt that the first student that spoke had a relevant point about it being necessary to find ways of allowing students to direct themselves in their own learning.  Students need to be engaged and motivated to investigate information for themselves.  I was thinking about my own students and how many of them are happy using their cell phones in class as tools of learning.  But at the same time, during this minor flashback, I remembered how students can also be extremely distracted from what is happening in the classroom.  The second student that spoke up surprised me when she pointed out that this can be the downfall to students having mobile access in a classroom and she thought that students should not have mobile access but instead computers for research.  At this point my co-teacher and I have agreed that we are not allowing cell phones but are going to strive to find ways for them to use cell phones in a productive way.  We don't want to limit student access to information but will set aside tasks for them to use their phones productively.

The Youth Teach 2 Learn program is fantastic!  It is clear that these students have the capacity to teach other students and inspire them to become more engaged in various content areas.  In order to start such a program at our school site, it will be important to find a group of educators who are wanting and willing to take on this program, to find ways of communicating with students, and want to try new things.  In working with administration, it would be necessary to find ways of this being a learning experience for the students involved.  The empowerment of these youth is essential in the learning of the school as a whole.

Unit Plan

For my unit plan I created a page liked in a tab above.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Literacy Reflection

In my classroom we create avenues for student discussion as well as problems of the week for students to explore.  Students are given tools to go about solving problems and then discuss various ways they each perceive their own mathematical reasoning.  Students spend time exploring given problems of the week and have to create their own understanding of how to go about solving the problem.  During their exploration of problems of the week, as well as group discussions, students are constantly finding ways of applying their own problem solving strategies, reasoning, and critical thinking skills.  When students are initially given problems of the week, as well as daily problems in class, they are given time to explore their initial thought process with their group, discuss various methods, and collaborate in their reasoning on how to go about approaching or solving the problem.

Throughout the class, the students develop methods of going about how to solve difficult problems.  Students learn techniques of how to approach problems where they may feel they have no way of solving, and they begin to put to use the tools they have learned up to that point.  These tools can be in form of formulas, equations, or any general mathematical reasoning they have developed.  In the development of these tools of analyzing problems, students are also given the opportunity to apply their analytical reasoning to everyday life and media.  Students are given content to explore from an unbiased background to see the purpose of certain message they are being sent.  The purpose is to create a critical and analytical mind that holds truth to a higher standard.  Inflated opinion has no weight when it comes to the logical reasoning needed to demonstrate truth in mathematics.  Students are therefore learning ways of distinguishing between truths and falsities in media.

The media students are exposed to often can come from the wide range of technologies surrounding their lives and therefore the students must build up fluency with such technologies in an educational environment.  Students can spend time

Throughout the class, students are always working independently, as well as in groups, as a way for them to become self-directed learners.  We are starting a new way of going through problems in class, where we give students time to work through classwork without given any instruction.  This will build up their ability to find ways of tackling a problem without instruction.  After the first 5 minutes we check in with the students and answer questions, discuss some strategies and then let them continue working with the intention of reflecting at the end.  The students are provided with this opportunity to work and interact with their classmates on a daily basis.  The teams they work in will be changed regularly throughout the class every two weeks.  In these groups students are also working through POWs (Problems of the Week).
When working with POWs the students are each given a different task to work through in which they are responsible for so students can get experience managing larger projects in groups.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sociocultural Aspects of Schooling for ELs

When working with students who are English Learners, there can be a struggle in communicating what is being asked of them and what will be assessed.  If the directions to a task are too complicated, the challenge may not be the task but understanding what the question is asking.  In order to remedy this, students will be given "toolkits."  These are booklets with definitions to subject area vocabulary, complete with examples and varying definitions for the students to fill out.  Students will be able to customize their toolkits based on their own understandings and use them on assessments.  Through this process students will be able to build up their academic vocabulary, learn to create usable definitions for their own thinking process, and focus on learning the skills necessary for a subject rather than the exact definitions for varying words.  This will also get students in the habit of creating their own toolkits for vocabulary for other classes.  They will be able to tie formal definitions, examples and any additional notes to help them with their individual learning needs.