Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Intro to Engineering Part 2 - Defining Learning

By Alexander Danan, Margi Patel, Ryan Libiano and Mark Heintz

This is part of a blog series intended to document and define learning at Elk Grove High School throughout the 2018-2019 school year in order to increase student learning, give professionals autonomy, increase trust in our learning community, and foster a sense of personal-intellectual collegiality within the building across departments. You can read all of the previous posts here.  I am going into each teacher's class four times and then they are reflecting alongside their students on the learning that took place and what they hope for. 


In this second visit, I asked the teacher and the student two questions: how do they define learning? Under what conditions do people learn best?  In an attempt to have all stakeholders have a similar definition of learning, the teacher and the students answered them, publish them, and then have conversations surrounding their beliefs on learning. This is what they came up with:



Learning is...

  • personal. 
  • not just obtaining new knowledge.
  • not easy.
  • rebuilding after failure.

People learn best when...
  • they are actively doing the work.
  • they learn from their mistakes.
  • you are interested in something.
  • want to learn. 


How do you define learning? 

Patrick McGing (teacher): Personal growth through a change or development. Learning is not just obtaining new knowledge but must also be a continual development and challenge of that knowledge. The knowledge must continually grow and impact the individual and their experiences.  

Alex Danan (student): Learning to me is when you take a topic that you have an interest in and get to know something new about it. Also, learning can’t be easy. Learning has to have a struggle or mistake in the process, so if you make a mistake then learn from it and do better the next time.

Margi Patel (student): I define learning by accepting my mistakes, trying, understanding the concepts, experience, being taught, knowledge, and learning from the results. 

Ryan Libiano (student): Learning through failure and accepting faults, if this could be achieved then the ability for one to rebuild themselves and improve will ultimately help accelerate future success and open up new opportunities.



How do you believe people learn best?

Patrick McGing (teacher): Doing, failing, adjusting, doing, failing, adjusting, doing. 

I don’t mean repetition and drill is the way to learn, rather people must recognize failure and develop adjustments to change the process. Personal growth through a change or development. 

Alex Danan (student): In my opinion, I believe that people learn best by getting taught or researching what they to. If the mistake is in the process of doing a project that they want to do then they can do better the next time or they can learn from their mistakes.

Margi Patel (student): People learn best when they learn from their mistakes and don’t do the same mistakes again. Also when they don’t give up in tough situations. 

Ryan Libiano (student): As mentioned before, people learn the best when they accept their faults and build themselves through failure and proper guidance.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Psychology - Part I

By Melissa Curtis, Devin Peterson, Brien Art, Paige Hermann, and Mark Heintz

This is part of a blog series intended to document and define learning at Elk Grove High School throughout the 2018-2019 school year in order to increase student learning, give professionals autonomy, increase trust in our learning community, and foster a sense of personal-intellectual collegiality within the building across departments.  You can read all of the previous posts here


Psychology might be the epitome of learner agency in a school.  I've yet to meet a student who didn't want to take the course or isn't interested in taking it.  In Melissa Curtis's psychology class, the kids are engaged.  They want to learn.  It isn't a required class nor does it give the student college credit, or a certificate.  They want to be there.  It's pretty amazing and the conditions that Melissa sets up in her class continue to allow for the students to explore their passion and their interests.



Melissa Curtis 

What did learning look like in the lesson? 

Students were using an interactive tutorial called Psych Sim.  These are lessons presented as slides that students read, click and answer questions as they move through the program.  There was also a worksheet for them to fill out on their iPads while using the desktop computers to complete the simulation.  This lesson was about how psychologists use statistics in their analysis of data.  Specifically, topics like frequency charts, histograms, measures of central tendency and measures of variance.  As I circulated around the computer lab, I was pleased to see students on task with their assignment.  Several students asked questions throughout the period and I offered clarification or instructions as needed.  This was a little risky because even though they were supposed to have read their textbook outside of class regarding these topics, they had received no classroom instruction on them.  Then, I checked the assignment the next day in class for a homework grade.  Most students completed the assignment.

What do you hope to do for the next time? 


I’d like to follow up with examples of experiments and how the data is used in real-life Psychology research.

Why do you love teaching psychology? 

 It’s practical to everyday life and students seem genuinely interested in the content.  Understanding the causes of human behavior can lead to a better reflection of ourselves and our personal/work relationships




Devin Peterson

What did you learn in this lesson? 

Right now we are learning about how psychologists analyze data through different types of experiments. The graphs and data tables they create based on the experiments are analyzed to prove if their hypothesis is correct or incorrect. Afterward, they use this data and find out why this might be the case based on the experiments.

What do you hope to learn for the next time? 

I want to learn about how different experiments have changed our lives. This means I would want to know what a certain idea was like in the past and the experiments were done on that idea. Then analyze why this idea has changed.

Why did you want to take psychology? 

I wanted to take psychology for my own career. I want to go to college to become a neuroscientist. To achieve this I decided I wanted to take Psychology 1 and 2 during my junior year. When I’m a senior I want to take AP Biology and AP Psychology.


Brien Art

What did you learn in this lesson?

In this lesson, we learned different methods used in experiments done by researchers such as twin studies with identical and fraternal twins and how similar they are to one another.

What do you hope to learn for the next time? 

For next time I hope to learn how the mind works and functions under different circumstances. I also want to learn more about experiments were done in the past about how the mind works.

Why did you want to take psychology?

I wanted to take psychology because I thought that it would be cool to learn about the mind, behavior, and to learn more about myself.

Paige Hermann

What did you learn in this lesson?

In this lesson we learned a little about twins but mostly focused on how scientists take data and different types of methods and charts.

What do you hope to learn for the next time? 

In our next lesson, I hope that we learn more about the brain and how it actually works in different situations.

Why did you want to take psychology?

I wanted to take psychology because I'm still not sure if I want to be a psychologist or not so taking this class can help me decided if I'm interested in it.



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

See children for who they are

By Mark Heintz

It sounds like an easy question to answer: What's the purpose of school? Yet, it might be one of the hardest questions to answer.  I started reading Timeless Learning and the brief history of schools is fascinating.  Even when you look at the origins of public education, there were very different reasons for it to exist.  Fast forward 150 years, it's purpose is still being debated.

So, what is the purpose of school? Are schools institutions of learning? Just academic learning? Are they solely there to prepare kids for the workforce, college, or the military?  Are they there to socialize or norm behaviors?  Are they there to inspire or open kids minds to possibilities? Are they there for self-actualization?  Are they all of those things?  Even if you can answer the question, do you live it? Are all of your actions aligned with what you believe about schools?


This post isn't going to answer the question directly or get to my beliefs.  But, rather bring up one point that might be missing from most of the questions above. It's simple. Clear. And very difficult to do on a daily basis. See children for who they are.

See...

the different, not the deficit knowledge.

their interests, not mine that I hope they find interesting.

their passions, not mine that I impress upon them.

their hopes, not mine for them.

their pathways, not the ones I wish they would take.

their journeys, not the ones I push on them because it worked for me.


Children are unique, incredible individuals that add so much to the already amazing world.  Yet, in a school setting, it can be difficult to always value what they want and allow them to purpose their interests. Like I said, it's hard.  I'm fortunate to work in a district that offers so many opportunities and teachers are willing to make changes to allow children to be themselves.  It's hard to make changes.  Still, the district and the schools in the district continue to make conditions that serve children and see them for who they are.


Friday, October 5, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Dual Language Program - Teacher Part I

by Jessica Maciejewski and Mark Heintz


This is part of a blog series intended to document and define learning at Elk Grove High School throughout the 2018-2019 school year in order to increase student learning, give professionals autonomy, increase trust in our learning community, and foster a sense of personal-intellectual collegiality within the building across departments.  You can read all of the previous posts here

This is the first year that Elk Grove High School has students in a dual language program.  The students in this class have been in the same class together since first grade.  They have been enrolled in a dual language program that has been taught in English and in Spanish over the past eight years.  Now, this first cohort of students is at Elk Grove.  They take English, Spanish, and Biology together.  It's an incredible program that values both languages and pushes the boundaries of the traditional high school experience.  It's simply amazing.  

Jessica Maciejewski volunteered to teach this class, and her passion is helping to ensure the success of this program at the high school level.  She is an amazing teacher who gets students to have meaningful conversations, work together, and write at a high level.  




Jessica Maciejewski

What did learning look like in the lesson?

Students pre-writing in their packets then sharing ideas and responding to one another’s thoughts in a traveling debate; communication in small groups to write “grenadiers” using leadership and cooperation.




What do you hope to do for the next time?

Increase student responses to one another--I know sometimes rewards (even getting to sit down after commenting) can actually backfire. Maybe students can respond as much as they want? Maybe there is a grade for participation in Habits of Work? Maybe there are some students with roles, or partners who actively look out for one another?





Sabrina
What did you learn in this lesson?

I learned in this lesson that communication is key to helping each other out. If you don’t communicate, your partners will never know what things you want to achieve from the project. Like with the strings attached to the markers, we all had to come up with a plan, and maybe readjust it during the process to sort out the mistakes.

What do you hope to learn for the next time?

Next time, I hope to learn to switch off each partners being leaders, and possibly thinking ahead and strategizing. Coming up with a plan A and plan B is important because you will always have a backup plan. When your group all comes together and talks through their ideas, you can get a bigger picture and more techniques that will spark new ways to achieve your goals.


Bryan

What did you learn in this lesson?

I learned that without communication no one knows what to do, for example, we wouldn’t know who will pull what string in order to make that letter, some people would work faster than others or the group can just be a mess.

What do you hope to learn for the next time?

I hope next time we can communicate better, maybe think ahead so each of us knows what we are doing. Another example can be soccer, without communication, we would crash into each other, we wouldn’t be able to know if a person is running towards us, or we can even get hurt.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Tale of Two Students

By Mark Heintz

I've been talking to a lot of students about learning.  I ask them what they want and how teachers can better create conditions to maximize learning and better serve them.  Two conversations stick out.  I asked them both to write out their responses.  They are very different and very honest.  I'm stuck here thinking what to do next.  They are pushing my thoughts and I wanted to see what others thought.  Please leave your comments, ideas, or reactions if you care to share.

Student A

When receiving our PSAT scores, every student looks at one another and mouths or straight out asks what the others got. We compare our scores and internally we judge ourselves based on these scores. I was taught to base myself on a number and I do exactly that. Every day, twice a day, I check my grades and obsess over studying to get that number. To be brutally honest, I get frustrated due to the fact that in classes, when grades are not put in right away or soon after I hardly know where I stand academically. I will obviously still try in classes due to the fact that I am addicted to learning (or rather memorizing), but that doesn’t change the fact that I am a number since that’s how I view myself.

Student B

I want school to be a place where I love to go to every day. A place where learning is new, innovative, and exciting. I love class when the teachers aren’t so worked up on everyone getting high standardized test scores and where we are constantly being told: “this is good practice for the SAT”. When learning feels natural and not like all the content is being forced into my brain I have a tendency to remember it more. However, I also realize that I don’t always fully grasp what I’m supposed to be learning because l will try and memorize all the stuff I was just taught so I can take a test or quiz on it, but then I forget it later or don’t remember how to apply what I’d just learned to the new content. Truthfully I think what I really want school to be is a place where I can learn new things without being worried all about what score/grade I’m going to get and rather worrying about how I can use what I just learned to make my life (or someone’s else’s) better.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: AP Spanish Literature and Culture - Teacher Part I

By Dean Burrier Sanchis

This is part of a blog series intended to document and define learning at Elk Grove High School throughout the 2018-2019 school year in order to increase student learning, give professionals autonomy, increase trust in our learning community, and foster a sense of personal-intellectual collegiality within the building across departments.  You can read all of the previous posts here


I've always heard from students how great Dean is.  His athletes love him.  His students praise him.  When I sat down with Dean as a follow up to a class visit, I could instantly tell how much he cares for his students. Being in his class and talking with him after, I feel the same way about him.  His class was organic. It was natural.  It focused on the things that the students were passionate about. Read his thoughts on learning and what school could be.  


Dean

What do you wish school could be?

I wish we could be an institution that helps guide students in a journey of self-discovery that unites them with the world and gives them a deep understanding of who they are and where they come from. I wish we could be more of a creative, problem-solving institution, a place to struggle with, theorize and debate the many issues and challenges affecting our students individually and life in our community, nation and world.

In many ways we are, but I believe there could be more emphasis on those facets and in creating the conditions to have students testing out and engaging in the community their unique ideas. Ultimately, our students will need to be creative problem solvers regardless of their career choice. Furthermore, being self-actualized and being grounded in a strong personal and community identity will give them the strength to overcome life’s challenges.

What did learning look like in the lesson? 

Students were able to articulate artistic analysis and extrapolate classroom conversations and literary analysis to apply them to a timely and personal debate about Mexican identity. Students demonstrated learning by applying varying cultural perspectives on the debate to historical and artistic analysis. Students will also need to construct creative and convincing arguments using supporting evidence and details.



What do you hope to do for the next time?

I hope students can bring to life the different perspectives on “Mexicanidad” in a lively debate to help recreate the panorama of views that exists and, perhaps more importantly, reflect on a deeper level about the many ways Art (in all its formats) changes perceptions and sense of identity in oneself through representations of identity (national or personal). Furthermore, I hope students see the many different perspectives that can exist and where there is common ground between viewpoints in order to construct a collective response (outside of the format of the debate) that answers essential questions about Mexicanidad and how heroes, history and art shape national identity.





Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Lesson Plan - Create Conditions for Learning

By Mark Heintz

Lesson planning requires a lot of time.  Teachers spend a lot of their day planning.  I wanted to write a way for teachers to decrease the amount of time planning while getting at what they want.  This was a lesson I did with freshmen.  I hope it's helpful.

How do teachers increase a student's reading, writing, and collaborative skills?  
How do we "manage" the learning? 
How can teachers decrease time spent lesson planning?  
How do ensure all students are learning?

Okay.  So, what does a lesson look like that does all of this without driving teachers crazy?

The lesson plan.  

To start, I had students develop a question they were interested in.  You can read how I did that here.  Once they have their question, things get a little easier.
  1. Have students find an article online that might help them answer their question.  I typically use Newsella or NPR. I let them use other news sources if they are already currently reading it.  (Not many are)
  2. I had them spend fifteen minutes reading the article.  Although I didn't tell them to, they were annotating the articles or writing down notes.  
  3. At the ten minute mark, I told them to jot down three facts, ideas, or questions that might help them answer their questions.
  4. I used Team Shake to pair students.  For five minutes they shared with each of their new understandings and how it might help them answer their questions.  As a class, a few students reported out.
  5. Then they had about twenty-five minutes to work on their question.  Most kids are writing a paper. A few kids are doing a presentation.  One student is doing a collage.  I walked around and answered any questions I could.
  6. With five minutes left in the class, students paired up again and shared with each other on the work they did.  I told them to give feedback to each on if their mini project was compelling or if the student provided evidence that actually answered the question.  
How do teachers increase a student's reading, writing, and collaborative skills?  

In this lesson, the students read, wrote, listened, and spoke.  Also, students inquired, explored, answered and presented.  That pretty much sums it up.

How do "manage" the learning? 

I didn't have to.  The students managed themselves.  I created conditions for the students to explore topics they were interested in.  Granted, we spent a lot of time crafting those questions and related them to human geography.  But, I didn't have to "manage" each activity.

How can teachers decrease time spent lesson planning?  

I didn't have to create anything for the lesson.  I spent time thinking about the time for each phase.  But I didn't create worksheets, print anything, post anything, or find the perfect article.  It didn't take much time outside of class.

How do ensure all students are learning?

I walked around.  As I did, I listened to the conversations, read what the students wrote, and observed students working together.  I connected with every kid.

 I firmly believe this lesson could be used in any subject.  The format might be different, but creating the conditions for students to learn would be the same.  In the end, that's what I did.  I created conditions to learn and ensured those conditions were upheld during the lesson.  If we can do that, then learning becomes natural.  We don't have to make a lot of "stuff" for the lesson.  We don't have to always have a formal assessment to see if they were learning.  We can work with students on things they are interested in.  We can focus on learning.  In the end, isn't that what's school for?