Yesterday I was out of the building. Like many teachers, I hate missing school because we lose the day of instruction; and with a block schedule, that can lead to large gaps in the learning process. After being out of the building yesterday, I returned this morning to a simple two sentence note from a substitute. It read, "Students worked the whole block. They are really into their projects."
I know this class well and it isn't a stretch to say they are among the best music appreciation classes I have ever taught. They are insightful, committed to their work, and they continue to demonstrate a vested interest in the art of music. What is interesting to me is the contrast between who this class is today and who this class is on day 1 each year.
Every Year Starts the same
My first activity each year is called "State Your Purpose." In this activity, students explain their reason for signing up for Music Appreciation in 1 tweet, about 280 characters. Many don't even use 100 to get their point across. I tend to get a few outliers, but the common thread of answers essentially read something like "I don't sing, I don't play an instrument, and I can't draw but I need to graduate high school."
While I have come to expect this answer over the years, I must say it always stings a bit to have students who are just not that interested in my subject area. I know that every teacher in the building can relate to that. However, we are still charged with the task of maintaining an orderly class, progressing every student through a curricular program and assessing their progress.
So who are these self-motivated learners?
Why do i care?
So the sub left a good note; the class did what they were supposed to do; why does that matter? It matters because I am watching the effects of positive learning experiences play out each day in my class. I am watching the development of student efficacy and executive functioning skills as students navigate a classroom environment that relies on them, not me.
What do I do with my time if I'm not running the show? I talk to kids, I evaluate their work individually, and I provide targeted feedback on their performance to help move them forward. I know that this isn't a brand new concept. Problem-based learning has been around for decades, but the LATIC framework gave me a structure to employ tools, strategies, and ideas that I have been reading about for years.
In short, learning took place in my absence and I can't wait to facilitate my next block and see what the students have built. It's fun changing the perception of my content area in this class because many of the students thought it was "going to be boring." In the long run, by creating challenging and relevant educational exercises, I am ensuring that my job as a teacher is necessary and essential. No modern machine can target feedback to an individual the way I can. I know my learners and how to meet their needs because putting the students in charge has freed me up to know them better.
Reading is a must!
When it comes to applicable cross-curricular skills, reading is at the top of the list. Beyond the walls of the school, reading is an absolute necessity for leading a healthy and productive life. While reading and literacy are regularly represented as ELA skills, they permeate every discipline in an important way.
Literacy simply defines the ability to read and write.As content specialists, much of our time is spent trying to make students literate in our area of expertise. Many of us are presenting daily tasks that require students to write about the content area. Math uses practice exercises that require one to read an expression and follow a series of written steps to solve the equation. Thus, a student must be able to read and write using math specific language; this is math literacy. Science is based on research and a desire to investigate the world around us. This research is published and built upon through decades and centuries. Students read and engage in experiments that will prove or disprove a hypothesis; then, students will reflect upon their findings using science terminology. Once again, this is literacy.
The same arguments can be made for every subject area in the building and this is why it is important to consider how teachers are implementing opportunities to read in every content area.
Creating a Meaningful class reading experience
Many classes use current events as a basic reading assignment. Maybe it is time to think about how we can make them more meaningful to students. Reciprocal Teaching is a tried and true group reading strategy to ensure students are reading for understanding and depth.
Teaching these skills can give you A 2:1 effect
It is very possible that a student could define their assigned role and be unable to facilitate the role correctly in this practice. Before you complete a full reciprocal teaching exercise, I would advise the teacher to complete at least one reading through each of the four lenses. In other words, take a class reading and practice summarizing as a group. For the next reading, everyone in the class is going to play the role of the questioner and progress through the reading sections with that mindset. In theory, that would prepare your class to attempt a reciprocal teaching reading for the fifth in class reading.
Why does this matter? Research concludes that Reciprocal Teaching can have a 2:1 effect on student achievement. That is reason enough to try for me. As always, the iCoaches are here to help if you want to learn more about this or other literacy strategies. Email icoachMK@mhrd.org to set up an appointment!
If you are you looking for a way to supplement your instruction with video content, you may want to consider adding ED Puzzle to your technology toolbox. Many teachers at MHRD are already using ED Puzzle with regularity because it is a simple way to distribute video content, put your own twist on it, and collect formative assessment from the students.
The best part of the platform is you can use existing videos from Youtube, Khan Academy, Ted Talks, and a wealth of other content platforms. This saves time and allows us to make use of the great content that is already out there. The platform also allows a teacher to interject formative quiz questions, voice overs, and audio notes, which allows the teacher to add their own clarification or directions within an existing video.
Edpuzzle continues to evolve and add new content libraries each school year. Even if you have used it in the past, I would encourage you to look at incredible amount of content teachers have created over the past few years. Like Kahoot, you can search, reuse, and modify the existing work of your peers to fit your classroom.
Easy Video Integration
Free Content Library
Publishes Directly to Google Classroom
Be sure to stop down this week as we are discussing all things Docs and Slides. Whether you are collecting and grading student essays or offering a collaborative presentation opportunity, Docs and Slides are powerful tools that can provide unique opportunities for consistent Formative feedback throughout the learning process.
Google Docs and Classroom:
The video below highlights how the new grading and commenting features in Google Classroom can improve the formative feedback process for digital work in your classroom.
The iCoach MK workshop blog catalogs all of our workshop materials and new resources in one location.