Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Chat: Fostering Resilient Learners (Part V: Live, Laugh, Love)

This is part of a series of our school book chat on the book Fostering Resilient Learners.  Search for similar titled blogs to read about our previous chats.  

To start today's book chat, we used the I Notice, I Wonder protocol in looking at the following graphic and answered these two questions:
  • On the left half, jot down anything you notice about the following slide.
  • On the right half to jot down anything you wonder about the following slide.


“People have got to learn: if they don’t have cookies in the cookie jar, they can’t eat cookies.” - Suze Orman

Reflecting on this quote, teachers wrote:
  • On the left half, describe the most meaningful, lasting “cookie” you’ve ever received.
  • On the right half, describe a cookie you gave to a student that had a powerful effect on the student’s life
Fostering Resilient Learners, Kristen Souers with Pete Hall
Thanks to all who joined in one, many, or all book chats!

Book Chat: Fostering Resilient Learners (Part IV: Belief)

(From last week) This is part of a series of our school book chat on the book Fostering Resilient LearnersSearch for similar titled blogs to read about our previous chats.  

Self-Reflection: Think of a specific student that you know who has experienced a significant amount of trauma.
  • How do you typically feel towards this student?
  • What are this student’s strengths?  What are her/his weaknesses?
  • When this student struggles, what do you think this student needs?
  • How does this student respond to praise?  What types work?


Next, we each wrote down how we manage when we are not OK.  Who do we talk to?  How do we cope?  What rituals or routines do we rely on?

Then we shifted this discussion to our students.  Do we have safe places or routines in our classroom for when students are not OK?  

Finally, our goal was to get to the "Your Professional Fears" survey in the book's resources, however, we ran out of time.  Such a great conversations with colleagues!


Fostering Resilient Learners, Kristen Souers with Pete Hall

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Intro to Health Careers - How do you define learning?

by Krista Glosson and Alyssa Trausch

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.

Learning is:
  • risk-taking.
  • trying.
  • application.
Learning occurs best when:
  • it's repetitive. 
  • people are involved in the process. 
  • people collaborate.


How do you define learning?

Krista Glosson (Teacher): I define learning as the willingness to try new things and take risks in the classroom.  When students try (anything at all in the classroom) they will find an end result.  The end result could be positive or negative for them, but even a negative experience could end up contributing to success later on if they continue to try.  For example, in the microscope lesson, all of the students tried to use the microscope.  Some students enjoyed the process more than others and had varying levels of success.  All of the students left the lesson with new information and some left with a new career to think about pursuing.

I always tell students that I expect to see attempts and failures when we start an inquiry lab in class.  Time is built in for students to have at least one failure in their investigation so that they can re-evaluate their approach and try again.  Assignments that require them to try to explain big phenomenon are assignments that I assume I will provide feedback on and they will try again to get it right.

Ultimately, as teachers we are still learning by trying new things sometimes they are successful and we learn to keep going in that direction or we fail and try again.  If we can provide an atmosphere where failure is safe (to an extent) we can help them build a tolerance for momentary failure while keeping the end goal of success in focus.  If we can teach them to learn this way, then I think we have had a significant impact on their success as an adult after they leave us.

Alyssa Trausch (Student):  I would define learning as getting information that is remembered and applied throughout your life. I may be a skill, an emotion or even just a fact, but it’s something that you will use again.



How do you believe people learn best?

Krista Glosson (Teacher):  Since I believe that trying is a big part of learning I like to make sure that the students are involved as often as possible.  They should be creating and contributing to the class material and discussions as often as possible.  I like to have them developing material for their classmates, completing activities in the lab, designing, running, and explaining their own experiments as well as having multiple small group discussions.

Alyssa Trausch (Student): An example would be a skill like writing which you learn at a young age. Writing is something that was consistently done over and over and over until we learned how to do it. It wasn’t one of those things where we “learned” it for 3 days took a quiz and then maybe a final later and then never use it again. That’s what I think learning is.




Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: AP Spanish Literature and Culture - Defining Learning

by Dean Sanchis, Jackelyn Campos, Daniel Salgado-Alvarez, 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.
  • solving problems.
  • applicable to new situations.
Learning occurs best when:
  • people collaborate. 
  • it's hands on. 
  • it's repetitive.


How do you define learning?

Dean Sanchis (Teacher Dean Sanchis): Cuando aƱades algo de valor y relevancia personal y colectiva a tu ser.

When you add something of value or personal and collective relevance to your personal life and identity.

Jackelyn Campos (Student): I define learning as the process is where we gain knowledge or skills on a particular subject and then apply them to real-life or theoretical situations. It is the process where we are able to solve problems with the knowledge that was taught to us or which we acquired by reading.

Daniel Salgado-Alvarez (Student): Gaining knowledge and being able to interpret and apply it to various situations. While you might not know everything, you are able to use previous knowledge to understand unknown topics.

How do you believe people learn best?

Dean Sanchis (Teacher Dean Sanchis): In collaboration with others, pursuing personal interests,  and self-discovery.

Jackelyn Campos (Student): I believe people learn best by learning hands-on, for example in science courses through labs. Repetition is also a major key to be able to learn something thoroughly and clearly. However, repetition doesn’t always mean making students memorize things, this approach can be taken on by presenting students with the same subject in different ways.

Daniel Salgado-Alvarez (Student):  I think people learn the best when they are exposed to the material in multiple formats and repeated exposure (reading, lecture, discussion, etc…).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

School Chat S1E4: Natalia Habas "What I love about school"

by Mark Heintz

In the fourth episode of School Chat, I sat down with current sophomore, Natalia Habas.  She has an amazing perspective on school culture and how she takes advantage of everything the school has to offer her.





Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Art Survey

by Mark Heintz and Cindy Pacyk

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.

There are certain classes in the school that are close to what I hope schools could be.  Really, what we should all aspire to be.  Art is one of those places.  I loved to draw a kid. As I got older, I didn't make time for it since I had more "academic" subjects to focus on.  Art didn't fit into my schedule.  I'm making room for it now.

I went into Cindy Pacyk's art class and was blown away by the atmosphere.  Students worked at the own pace on their projects.  It was a lunch period and students were dropping in and helping kids who aren't even in their class.  Freshmen through seniors are mixed in and working together.  Cindy pulled small groups together to show them a technique and answer questions.  There was a calm and ease to the class that is hard to create.  It was amazing.



I had to know more.  I wanted to know what her definition of learning was and what conditions she felt people learned best under. This is what she said:


How do you define learning?

Cindy: Learning is the ability to master the basics of a subject matter and use them appropriately to find one’s own voice.  It is the acquisition of problem-solving skills that allow a student to be flexible in their approach to different scenarios.  This level of mastery helps students develop a portfolio of meaningful and individual artworks.



How do you believe people learn best?

Cindy: I believe people best learn by making mistakes with the understanding that this is a tool they have gained or an understanding.  If the mistake is seen as only that, a mistake, a greater lesson is not learned but if they view it as a way of gaining insight they have learned.  In making that “mistake” they know one way something did not work that is knowledge gained.



Monday, November 26, 2018

The Power of a Snow Day

by Mark Heintz

Last night, after much anticipation, we finally got the call...  School was canceled: SNOW DAY! Thirteen years of teaching and many more of being a student, I STILL get excited by a snow day. I have great memories of putting my snow gear on and heading out for an epic day of building forts, snowball fights, and sledding.  Growing up, I would wake up, turn the radio on, and listen eagerly for the school closing announcements.  These days, there are much quicker means of sharing the news of a school cancellation.  And, that sharing of information works both ways.  Teachers can post updates and answer questions easier than they ever have been before.  Because of that, days off are no longer quite so free.

Earlier today, I sent out a request to my current and recently former students to tell me what they are doing with their "day off."

Some students read and annotated.  Let me rephrase that.  They actually got to read for a lengthy period of uninterrupted time. They could process and enjoy the assigned reading because they actually had the time to do so.


Other students got to work on projects they were interested in.  One student used the research for Debate Club. She's researching nine bills and this is what she had to say, "There's the background showing what the bill is about, there are pros of why we should affirm this mock piece of legislation. I am currently working on is why we should negate this mock piece of legislation. There are 8 contentions on each of the argument, following the format in one of the screenshots.




Another student spent his day reading a book written by a man imprisoned in 10 concentration camps while also improving his Polish! 



Others used it to get ahead on physics and collaborate with others when they needed help.


Others, like myself, used the day to shovel themselves, their family, and neighbors out the snow.  Some students were needed to watch over younger siblings while their guardians went to work.

And, probably best of all, kids used their time to play.  Research and evidence continues to show that even high school age students greatly benefit from unstructured, freeform play.  It's awesome to see them not only taking advantage of the day to finish work and passion projects but also, to see them just plain being kids.