“Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education. They tell you about your own inadequacies.” By Robert Greene

Retakes

My district has rolled out a new grading system that allows students to retake assessments and I am very excited about this. Some naysayers say this doesn’t teach students responsibility and is not ‘real world’ but I disagree. Not only does it teach responsibility but also strengthen students depositional thinking skills such as perseverance and resilience. There are many assessments that we are allowed to retake in the ‘real world’ such as driving tests, SATs and even the BAR exam. Allowing students to retake an assessment also show true mastery of learning; however if only done effectively.

What does effective assessment retake look like? Below I have shared some of the problems I see and how we can overcome them so we are being purposeful and meaningful when allowing our students to retake an assessment.

Problem #1 : Tests are on Friday because the pacing guide says so. Retakes are on Monday, you have the weekend to learn it.

Solution #1: Learning goals do not depend upon every student reaching the same level of proficiency on the same day. Learning goals DO depend upon every student mastering the goal. Allow students to take the assessment when they know the material, including the retake.

Problem #2: Teachers allow students to retake without any corrective actions in place.

Solution #2: Have students create action plans or steps on how they are going to master the material. This holds them accountable for their learning as well. We don’t learn from our mistakes, we learn from correcting our mistakes.

Problem #3: Teachers teach the material the same way when reteaching.

Solution #3: Albert Einstein definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to teach the material a different way in order to help our students.

Rick Wormeli’s Redo’s and Retakes Done Right is also a great read with practical strategies to use in the classroom. I would love to hear any effective tips and tricks you use in your classroom that allow for effective retakes, please share in the comments.

Mystery Skype

“It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.” By Antoine Rivarol

Guest Blog Post by Megan Mehta

We were a few weeks away from a unit centered on the 5 Themes of Geography, and my options were looking like either a) pull the info from the textbook, or b) do something the kids would be excited about.  So I started doing some research and some thinking and this is what I came up with:

We would still use the 5 Themes framework, but I wanted them to branch out beyond the borders of North Carolina.  I also wanted them to work collaboratively while sustaining interest in a project that was going to span a few weeks. I began with a regional map of the United States:

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I split up the kids and let them choose their regions.  Each and every group was excited about their region because someone had some connection to a state, so we were off to a great start!  The next step was to figure out a way to organize our information.  We are a BYOD school, but not all of my kids have devices, so we discussed ways to keep track of our learning and research and decided on a common graphic organizer:

Picture

Hey! That’s only 4 themes! I decided to omit the “movement” theme for the purpose of this unit, as we will be learning about it later in the year.  Anyway, we discussed the themes as they related to Charlotte, North Carolina, and began with Location.  They immediately realized that finding the absolute location of their region was going to be tricky. One group’s solution was to do it just for the capital cities in their respective states; the other groups declared them geniuses, and everyone was happy with the solution. For relative location, some groups chose to describe it for the capital cities, some chose to focus on the region itself.

We went through each of the remaining themes like this: I modeled, they applied. I assessed them with a simple rubric of 3 (mastered), 2 (partially mastered) and 1 (not mastered), and provided support where needed. I expected to be tearing around the room with my hair on fire, but the kids were really into this and did an amazing job of working collaboratively.

We finished our graphic organizers (this took about 4-5 class periods of 45 minutes each) and I was (fairly) confident we were ready to set up our first Mystery Skype. I found a list of jobs and tweaked it to meet our class needs. What we ended up with was this:

1 note taker (records the clues on paper)

2 tweeters (to live tweet the event, of course!)

3 moderators (the faces of our class– asked the questions from the inquirers and relayed answers to the mappers)

4 state experts (answered the questions from the other class)

3 inquirers (asked questions based on the mappers’ notes)

4 mappers (used maps of the U. S. and Google Earth to narrow down the other class’ location)

2 photographers (used iPads to document the experience)

For the first call, I assigned the jobs but in subsequent ones, I have had them pull them out of a hat (a fancy word for “quart-sized storage bag”) and given the option to trade.

To set up the call, I turned to the Great and Powerful Twitter. Within hours, we had three classes wanting to connect. I learned quickly that scheduling can be a challenge with our regimented days, but with some creative rearranging we managed to find a time to connect with a class in Iowa. I told them from the get-go that we were completely new to this in case we breached some Mystery Skype protocol or etiquette that we were unaware of. We took our cues from them and we were off and running! Their first question asked us if we were in the U.S. and where we were in relation to the Mississippi River. It took all I had to restrain myself and let the kids figure out the strategy! I’d like to say that everyone stuck to their job and their assigned classroom area the whole time and everything went perfectly… However… we had sound issues which made it all much more difficult than it should have been. We couldn’t get skype to work on our desktop, so we were using an iPad. The speakers I had weren’t working, so the only audio we had were the tiny sounds coming from the iPad speakers. In a room full of excited 8 year olds, this is not ideal. At one point, I was leaning in to the speaker to listen, not realizing my face was right in the camera. Not exactly the big screen debut I was hoping for, and I’m pretty sure I reappeared in a subsequent nightmare or two because that was one intense close-up. Also, the kids were SO excited that they were (of course) all over the room, talking over each other, doing each other’s jobs, and often doing everything but paying attention to the clues. BUT, we made it! After 45 minutes, they had guessed our location and we figured out theirs (with a little help).

In all, it was and continues to be an amazing learning experience for these kids. They are learning so much about U. S. geography, and thrilled about connecting with other kids across the country. We will definitely continue this throughout the year! If you are looking to connect with us, our Twitter handle is @MehtasBESpandas.

**Update! This process has evolved throughout the year, and I’m sure it will continue to do so next year. I’ve since added the job of “back channellers” where we set up a room on TodaysMeet.com and ask questions about how many kids they have in their school or class, what their school mascot is, etc. We also use Google maps to find out how long it would take us to travel to their school by car. Something we may do next year is come up with a short bio about us and the Charlotte area to use as a wrap up or conversation starter once the locations have been correctly identified. We also need to talk about time zones and the 13 original colonies– both those questions came up a few times and stymied our state experts. I’ve also learned that guessing the state is the easy part– guessing the town or city is really tough! I think the biggest take-away I have from doing these this year are how quickly my kids took over and rocked it out. There was a lot of initial coaching, but by the end of the year, THEY were the ones taking the lead, keeping each other in check, critically thinking, and collaborating. And no one will ever be able to say one of our Pandas can’t find xyz on a map of the U.S.!

“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” By Maurice Sendak

Booktrack aims to improve student literacy through encompassing technology and Common Core Standards. It can be used two different ways: One is students can read stories, poems and other texts that are associated with a ‘movie-style’ soundtrack or two, students can create Booktracks, using their own writing.

How does it work?

You choose a book. As you read, you’ll see an arrow going down the right-hand margin of the page. This arrow moves down the page as you read so that your reading speed goes with the soundtrack. If the arrow moves too fast or slow, use the plus and minus icons at the bottom of the page to change the speed.

If you want students to create their own book, they can do so in a few easy steps:

1. Click on the icon create

2. Type the story

3. Add the sound track by highlighting the text you want to each part of the story from the library of over 20,000 sound clips.

4. Preview and then publish!

Here are my ten reasons why I like Booktrack:

1. FREE

2. Lesson plan library created by teachers, for teachers

3.  It is easy to create a class account. To enroll your students into your class add their name and select add or just upload a CSV file – Booktrack will set them up for you.

4. Books for all levels of students elementary, middle and high.

5. If you have any questions or need assistance just click on “Help” in the upper right hand corner. There are video tutorials to help guide you as well, which makes it very user-friendly.

6. Works on all devices! (Great for BYOT classrooms)

7. The books are all labeled with genre, type, language and ratings.

 

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8. Students can create their own books and publish them so others can read as well.

9.  The sound track can distract some students but you can mute it and read it just like a regular e-book.

10. Teachers can use the books as their read alouds; modeling on an eReader can help promote 21st century digital literacy skills.

Articles about Booktrack:

Booktrack Raises $3M To Add Soundtracks To E-Books, Launches Classroom Version

Booktrack – Create and Listen to Soundtracks for Books

 

Pixar Pitches in Education

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.” By Joss Whedon

This summer I learned a new way to present information in a quick manner called Pixar Pitch. The concept is that if you only have 60 seconds (elevator speech) to ‘sell/tell’ your idea, you need to know the key important information. To help condense your story into a single paragraph, Daniel Pink, the author of “To Sell Is Human,” suggests using this  6 sentence formula original created by Emma Coats.
 

Pixar Pitch Formula:
- Once upon a time…
- Every day or year…
- Then one day…
- Because of that…
- After That…
- Until Finally…

 
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Here is an education example that I created. The topic: Personalized Learning.
 

Once upon a time…we wanted to maximize student academic achievement in the 21st century through innovation.
Every day…we took notice that the world was changing. We were preparing our students for jobs that were not even invented.
Then one day…we realized we needed to make an instructional shift and personalize the students learning.
Because of that…we created a cohort of schools that would focus on an instructional design that requires a fundamental shift from a traditional teaching model, to a classroom that empowers and nurtures the social, emotional, academic, and developmental needs of each self-directed 21st century learner.
After That…the schools focused on the whole child, student ownership, mastery learning and paces, playlists and pathways.
Until Finally…we changed the classroom experience and raised student achievement.

 

Here is another example by Jay Connor from his blog. The topic: The community is seeking to dramatically improve early childhood reading outcomes.

 

Once upon a time there was … an education crisis haunting our schools and communities across North America.
Every day … large percentages of our children were not achieving proficiency in vital literacy skills to the point that some in our community even doubted whether they ever could.
One day … we developed a simple and shared definition of what children had to know to be ready for school.
Because of that … our early childhood centers and parents became better at helping all children enter kindergarten ready to learn
Because of that … teachers were free to work more on skill development for each individual child.
Until finally … every child, irrespective of ethnic or economic circumstance, became a proficient reader by the end of third grade.

 

I would love to hear your examples of using Pixar Pitches in education. Please share in the comments.

“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s only way to work, really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” By Antony Starr

L2L-left

This week I attended one of my favorite conferences, ASCD Leader to Leader (#ASCDL2L). This conference is one of my favorite because it is different. It is invitation only and there are educators from all over the world and from different aspects of education. You sit in groups verse rows and have lots of time to collaborate and discuss topics that you are interested in. These groups are mixed up of superintendents to teachers and everything in-between but you never know who does what (unless you ask) as everyone is treated equally and there is no “ladder” or status hierarchy. This year we had Jerry Weast as the keynote. Mr. Weast is a long time educator and served in all different facets and is now retired but continues to practice his knowledge with Partnership For Deliberate Excellence (P4DE). Below are my key ideas from his keynote:

  • Lead by dancing rather than pushing, work together not against one another
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve, whats getting in the way of your progress? What are the conditions necessary to solve it?
  • Change the culture of learning and teaching
  • What must I do to move this organization/school/work?
    • Know you will be a target and it hurts but it is worth the pain for change
    • Run toward the problem….not away from
    • Quality vs Time – what can you do to bend the curve so you get results?
  • Study Human Behavior as it explains a lot
  • Stages of Change : Organization Maturity Model to Increase Performance
    1. Discover Existing Condition
    2. Commit to Predictive Gateways
    3. Evaluate Effectiveness
    4. Engage and Empower
    5. Innovate and monitor
  • Make sure your cost effort is equaling the impact or scrap it
  • Have effective benchmarks
  • Before asking what to add for the change to occur, ask what you can off-load to move a school to change.
  • When managing complex change you need to have five things:
    1. Vision
    2. Skills
    3. Incentives
    4. Resources
    5. Action plan
  •  If you don’t then….
    • No Vision = Confusion
    • No  Skills = anxiety
    • No Incentives = gradual change
    • No Resources = frustration
    • No action plan = false start
  • Start looking in the mirror and develop yourself and your leadership skills, because you can’t make a difference if you don’t know yourself.
  • If you don’t get the outcomes, what are you going to do differently?
  • Somehow it seems the world is having more effect on me, then I am having on the world…don’t let this happen.
  • Four themes to develop for effective leadership: Trust, Culture, Listen to Understand and Clarity.
  • Books he recommends to read: NudgeTribes, Improbable Scholar

 

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.”By  B.B. King

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps based geography and trivia game. It is very user-friendly like most Google products are. The purpose is to answer as many questions as you can before you run out of miles.  Miles are lost when you answer incorrectly based on how ‘far off’ your answer is. You can decide if you want random questions, or if you want a specific category and there are six categories to choose from such as arts and culture, science and geography and sports and games.

Once you start, your first question will appear on the left-hand side of the screen. To answer you have to drag the map pin to the correct location. (I have found the map will start near the area you need to go) You can zoom in and out as well based on the level of detail you want.

Once you find the correct location you drop the pin and the name of the location will appear, for example Charlotte, NC. You can then submit your answer or get a hint if you would like. The hint show up on the left hand side under the question. If you chose to use the hint, you do not get to earn bonus miles. Bonus miles are given for answering a question correctly within 15 seconds. There are funny captions after you answer each question no matter if you get it right or wrong. When you answer a certain number of questions correctly you earn awards: bronze, silver or gold.

Smarty Pins

How Could You Use This in the Classroom?

1. Each day as a class, (or one day a week) you can use Smarty Pins as a class team building activity (ex. during morning meeting). Together the class can see how many questions they get right before they run out of miles. Each day or week they could track their progress and then graph it for each month. This allows team building, critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving along with learning geography.

2.  Use Smarty Pins as a base for students genius hour or passion based learning ideas. As the students plays the game, they will learn facts and geography of places that they might find interesting and want to learn more about. For example when I played, I found myself interested in more about the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ as I had a question about the bell tower.

3. This game could be used for when a student finishes an activity early as a fun extension or during when you find you have a few minutes before a transition.

As always, I would love to hear how you would use it in the classroom! Please share in the comments section.

 

“It’s no longer enough simply to outperform the competition; to thrive in a world of ceaseless and rapid change, business people have to out-imagine the competition as well. They must begin to think-to become-more like designers.” by Roger Martin

Design challenges uses the design thinking process to find a solution to a challenge. Design thinking takes on a problem solving mindset. Design challenges create real world opportunities for students  be innovative and creative while using their higher order thinking and 21st century learning skills. Design thinking and challenges provides a student centric learning experience to happen in the classroom. Below is the design process that Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (all rights reserved) uses:

Design Thinking Process

Design Challenge Ideas for the Classroom:

  • How might we create ways for younger students to better understand how important digital citizenship is?
  • Create an app that would help you solve a problem you encounter daily?
  • Knex: Design Challenge
  • Design a clothing product that allows for heating and cooling of materials for different sports. (Example of standards based Design Challenge – Science: 5.P.3)

Other resources on Design Thinking and Challenges:

Museum of Science, Boston Design Challenges

Design Challenge Lessons from The Tech Museum: Museum of Innovation

A Design Challenge to Students: Solve a Real-World Problem!

Design Squad – PBS (Great for 3-8th graders)

Real World Design Challenges (HS Level)

Threadless Design Challenge – Real world application

K12 Lab Wiki for Design Challenges

Design Thinking for Educators

IDEO Design Thinking

Great article by Forbes: Design Thinking: A Unified Framework for Innovation

I would love to hear design thinking and challenges ideas from your classrooms.

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