Posts tagged ‘portfolios’

Why Student-Led Conferences Should Happen Without Parents too!

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by BUT in the long run There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” Led Zeppelin

Teaching students to be reflective about their learning provides them with real world skills and why I believe we need more student-led conferences (SLC). In my eyes, SLC’s should happen routinely in the classroom, not just limited to parent/teacher conference time once or twice a year. I also believe SLC’s should also happen in all subjects areas, not just reading like some teachers believe. With personalized learning and student centered classrooms, SLC’s should be a core component of the classroom.

Why Have Student Led-Conferences:

1. Deepen their understanding of themselves as learners because the students are self-evaluate, self-regulate, and self-motivate

2. Student are empowered and develop ownership of personal goals and achievements.

3. It holds students accountable for their learning and work.

4. Students are practicing real world skills such as communication, critical thinking, reflection, organization and leadership.

5. It focuses more on growth of learning verse just grades and test scores; especially if students have a portfolio of work and use a range of diagnostic, formative, and summative tasks to monitor student progress.

6. It fosters positive teacher/student relationships.

What Should a Student-Led Conference Look Like?

Start the conference with a question to put the student in the lead for example: Tell me what you are working on as a _____ (fill in with what subject you are working with: reader, scientist, mathematician etc). This should lead you to decide what comes next, if the student is on track, ask how can I help you attain your goal or do a small teach point if they need support. Make sure after each conference the student leaves the conference with a goal/action step that they will be working on. Here is a possible dialogue of a SLC in reading (T = teacher and S = Student)

T: “Tell me what you are working on as a reader.”

S: “I am working on the strategy monitoring my comprehension. I am noticing based on my ‘tracks of my thinking’ I am having a hard time with vocabulary.”

T: “Let me show you a way to figure out hard words.” This is where the small teach point comes in. (The teach point is only a few minutes)

S: “I will add that to my goals for reading and practice it this week and record it in my readers notebook.”

or in math

T: “Tell me what you are working on as a mathematician.”

S: “I have mastered addition and I have moved to subtraction but I am struggling.”

T: “Which subtraction strategy did you try using? Let me see your work.”

S: “I have tried using compensation but I don’t think that strategies works best for me because I round one of the numbers to make it easier but forget to compensate for it.”

T: “Let’s try a different strategy such as decomposing the numbers to make the easier for you to subtract.” This is where the small teach point of reviewing decomposing comes in.

S: “I will practice decomposing when I subtract as I feel confident with place value.”

FAQ’s:

1. What happens if the student doesn’t know what to do? If you are consistently having student-led conferencing in your classroom, the students will be used to the routine and process. If you are not doing this consistently then you should make sure to add it into your class period. Having clear expectations also helps. Use tools such as goal setting sheets, data trackers and refer to mini-lessons as well.

2. Am I as a teacher involved in the conferencing? Yes, you will facilitate the discussion if needed and ask probing questions.

3. Some teachers are reluctant, how can they be brought on board? Understand change is hard, start with the willing teachers that want to try to let others ‘see’ teachers do them so they feel more comfortable. Start off in one subject, master that and then move on to conferencing in other subjects.

I do think SLC should have with parents too and an FAQ I always get is when parents are involved is:

1. What if the parent has a question for just the teacher? At the end of the student-led conference you can have a few minutes without the student or you can set up follow-up appointment. If you are consistently communicating, this rarely happens. Many are so impressed with how much their student knows it doesn’t happen as much as you think.

 

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Using ThingLink in the Classroom

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” by Edwin Land

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Thinglink was introduced to me when I was at the NC Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) Conference during a presentation by Richard Byrne (@rmbryne). I thought it was a really great FREE web tool but was disappointed it didn’t also have an app. A few weeks ago, Thinglink launched their FREE app, which I love!

What is Thinglink? Thinglink makes pictures interactive with text, video, images and links. When you click on a Thinglink image, you’ll see symbols such as red video circles and dots where it is interactive. Thinglink has endless possibilities in education. My top 3 ways of using it in education are below:

1. Student Portfolios: Teachers can use a picture of a student and through-out the year, students can add images of their work or video to show mastery of content. By doing this each quarter the teachers, students and parents can see the progress over the year. Each corner of the picture could represent each quarter/semester.

2. Assessment, Projects and Presentation: Students can create Thinglinks to show their understanding for any Common Core or Essential Standard. Teachers can have a rubric setting the expectation for what they want in the Thinglink. For example you could require, two text boxes, a link and  a video. Or you can set the expectation that the student must show mastery of a standard, and the student has a little more freedom to determine what that looks like. Having the students creating Thinglinks lets them use all their 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating, communicating and collaborating (if they work with a partner).

Ex of Assessment: The student can draw out any topic, for example the water cycle or a math problem, using the free Skitch app. The student can save it to their camera roll and then create a Thinglink demonstrating their knowledge by adding recordings, text and links explaining their thinking.

Ex of a project: The students can make book reports by taking a picture of the book cover and embedding a movie trailer that they have created for the book. Or for non-fiction the student could find a picture of the person like Steve Jobs, and they can show their understanding of the book. Click here for my example, I chose to do a favorite quote and speech.

A fabulous teacher, Lisa Maples, embedded her class Thinglink into her wiki, as an end of year project. There are  links to various digital projects that the students have created. http://maples.cmswiki.wikispaces.net/Thinglink+2012-2013

3. Lesson Plans and Homework: Teachers can create Thinglinks to help differentiate lessons and homework. Using any image, the teacher can add the content they want the students to know. You can even spice up graphic organizers and info-graphics.

Ex of  a Lesson Plan: The teacher can take a picture of an ecosystem and add all the vocabulary words and/or videos that can help the students learn the topic.

Ex of Homework: This is a great way to flip the classroom. You can embed videos and practice problems on a  topic and have the students complete for homework. Click here for an example using comparing fractions.

Thinglinks are easy to create on both the website and in the app. First create an account at thinglink.com (it is free). If you want to create a Thinglink on the app, download it, and then sign in. Using the pictures in your camera roll, chose one and then tap anywhere on the picture. Here you add the content you want such as video or text, add a title and you are done. You can share it by emailing the link from the app but it also automatically syncs; when you log into your account through the website, you can share it many more ways. If you are creating a Thinglink on the website, click on create in the top right corner and chose an image that is on your computer or for a website (make sure it is a creative commons imagine) and add your content. That is it, I love free and simple!

Any of these Thinglinks can be made into a QR code as well. You can have these posted around the room as helping aids or to inform the students. Just copy the url and paste into any QR code creator such as qrstuff or follow my directions on my blog post about making  QR code in google drive.

I would love to hear how you have used Thinglink or want to use it in your classroom, please share in the comments or on this open Thinglink I created by clicking edit and adding your idea. (To make a Thinglink where anyone can add info, click on the edit tab and set your settings to anyone.) Another great way to have students collaborate in the classroom.

Follow me on Thinglink:  Edu_Thompson. Here are some more great Thinglinks done by other educators! Click on the links to view.

Flexible Learning Paths

Web Tools and Literacy

Let’s Teach Kids to Code

Tips and Resources for a Paperless Classroom

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” By Paul J. Meyer

paperless-greenYou can go paperless, or at least reduce the use of paper in your classroom many different ways. It is easier if you are a school that has Bring Your Own Technology/Device (BYOT or BYOD) implemented but not impossible to do without devices. Below are a few tips/ideas to help you get started along with some other Paperless resources.

1. Decide on a workflow. Have students submit assignments and homework via online. Use sites such as Gaggle, Edmodo, Moodle  etc

2. Use web tools for productivity! Have student’s….

– create ebooks using flipsnack or scribble press

– present material using PowerPoint, Slide Rocket or Prezi

– keep a digital portfolio via Evernote, WikiSpaces or Mahara

– collaborate in real time using Google Docs, Zoho Documents or Mur.ly

– represent their knowledge (informal or formal assessment) through Todays Meet, Edu Glogster, Show Me or Poll Everywhere

3. Have your students blog instead of writing stories, reading responses or essays.

4. Use individual whiteboards to work out problems or brainstorm.

5. Use a doc camera or interactive whiteboard instead of showing examples on paper

6. Have more class discussions and debates!

7. Have students collaborate using 1 piece of paper verse 4. It also allows them to practice 21st century skills of collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

8. Keep a grade book online or by using a spreadsheet

9. Create eNewsletters, use email or vodcast to share out what is happening in your classroom.

10. Use a wiki or website to display hotlists, webquests and resources so students are active in their learning instead of passive.

This year in my personal life I have been trying to go paperless as well, to practice what I preach. Some of the things I have started changing is having all my bills as online payments, grocery lists are now in my Evernote or Notes App and I am having stores email me my receipts.

Paperless Resources

Paperless Coalition

Prezi- The Paperless Classroom

Paperless Classroom Blog

Paperless Classroom Website

5 Applications to Help go Paperless

Please share any tips or resources you have for making your classroom or personal life paperless!

Grading in the 21st Century

“Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man’s papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive.” by Jonas Salk

Tonight’s #21stedchat (Sundays @ 8:00 EST) topic is Grades and Grading in the 21st century. I have many mixed feelings about this topic and though through a reflection, I might be able to have more clarity of how I really feel. I know this is something that I can not change as it is based on the district and state policies but it is still worth thinking about as grading is always a ‘hot topic’ and it’s important to have an open mind.

My first thoughts are, I don’t think we should grade elementary school student’s. In elementary school we as educators are trying to build the foundation of skills so the students master reading and basic math. I think grades in elementary school turn off many students causing them low or no self confidences and is the start of ‘hating school’.

I think standards-based education is what our students need. Students require ongoing teaching and learning where each student can demonstrate mastery in Common Core standards. Using standard benchmark concepts and skills, will provide an alignment among classrooms and schools yet take away the added pressure of grades.

If we eliminated grades we could focus on true learning. Teaching and learning is a cycle that should measures student achievement through a variety of formats and assessments along with ensuring multiple opportunities for students to learn until they reach mastery. I think that students should be able to retake assessments until they show mastery. I understand some educators concerns that it is not ‘fair’ because those students that worked hard the first time, should not be ‘penalized’ but isn’t mastery what learning is all about and isn’t that what we want for all students? I heard a great quote recently, “Fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal” which fits this situation perfectly.

Portfolios, I am a huge fan of student portfolios and student goals. I think all students should have a portfolio and work at their speed. Growth is what we want to see in students, portfolios are a great way of doing this. Having student lead conferences are a great way to show their growth and lets the student take ownership of their own learning which is what we want to build within students.  Portfolios can have assessments within such as performance tasks or PBL, which can be ‘graded’ or can show mastery based on a rubric.

With all this grading talk we must talk about rubrics. Again, I have mixed feelings on rubrics. I like rubrics, I think they are a great way to grade fairly and set expectations. However, I think rubrics also stunt creativity sometimes and hinder students because they either know what they have to do to get by or they don’t think ‘out of the box’ because it is not in the rubric. I have come to the conclusion that like anything you need to have a good balance which is why sometimes I use rubrics and sometimes I don’t.

I think 21st century skills such as critically thinking, communicating, collaborating and creating can all be  assessed multiple ways no matter if you are using a grading system or not.

As you can see I have mixed feelings and am excited to learn tonight from others around the  world. If you can’t make the chat or missed it, I still would love to hear your thoughts.

Testing in my Ideal School

“Believing we can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height.” Robert Schaeffer

This past week our students took our states summative tests (End of Grade- E.O.G) and what a long week it was. I hated seeing the anxiety level of the students because as much as we told them we just wanted them to try their best; they knew these tests were more than that. This really got me thinking about what I would want testing to look like in my ideal elementary school.

In my ideal school, I would have all the teachers and students keep a working portfolio (even more appealing…paperless portfolio)!  A students knowledge should not be based on just one day. I know I am a ‘bad’ test taker but that doesn’t mean I am not smart or that I don’t understand. Portfolios would eliminate that misconception that a standardized test gives. In the portfolios, I along with the students would place artifacts that showed growth in an area/subject. The artifacts could be common assessments, projects or presentations, anything the student or teacher wanted. I would also have the student keep their S.M.A.R.T goals in their portfolio as well. When the I  conferenced with the student on their progress and goals, I would keep the notes from the ongoing conferences. I believe that having portfolios like this would also make the students more accountable for their learning. Another advantage of  portfolios is that it is differentiated and teachers don’t have to ask all students to turn in the same kinds of work in order to show mastery.

In my ideal school, I would not have any timed tests. We are starting to get away from timing math facts in schools because we see the link between students anxiety and hating math. We also see that rote math skills does not prove understanding of math concepts, so what makes us think that it is any different with other subjects. I can easily memorize vocabulary for a test on a certain week but ask me the week after and I won’t remember the meanings. But if I apply the vocabulary words to something I have created such as a project, I will more likely remember the definitions. I would still give formal and informal assessments to guide my instruction based on the data. I would make common assessments one-on-one. This would allow the students to explain their thinking. Unlike multiple choice assessments, one-on-one would allow teachers to assess more than one objective at a time. In addition to this, I make sure the assessment were authentic.

Also in my ideal school, I would have the professional learning community (PLC’s/grade levels) meet and discuss students work, portfolios and common assessments weekly. During these meetings I, along with the team, would reflect on the rubrics and assessments we have created for the projects etc that are going in the students portfolios. We would also discuss students growth and if there was no growth interventions that we could put in place.

This is how testing would look in my ideal school, how about yours?

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