Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Freshmen P.E. Reflection

By Anthony Furman

Anthony wrote a lesson reflection a few months ago.  He again is reflecting as he tries to build a student-centered physical education course that is responsive to the diverse needs of each student.

What do you hope to do for the next time? 

I will be looking to see that we are practicing our “Building a Culture to be Proud Of” statements. That will come from teacher to student as well as student to student.  Exercises learned will be practiced and then given was to be made more challenging.  Ideally, we begin to build an atmosphere where class expectations are maintained by all students and we continue to build on the program focuses set each week.

What aspects of your hopes came true? 

I do believe we are making progress in our practice and work each day.  Whether it be in the weight room or in other areas we continue to talk about the importance of taking pride in how one accomplishes a task and then attempt to practice that skill during class.  The form is getting better and kids are starting to understand the process of making things challenging in order to see results.  We continue to stress the importance of being prepared and then having high expectations for our effort.  I have noticed several students beginning to challenge their own classmates to improve, try or something simple like listen. 

What did learning look like in this lesson?

As we move further into the second quarter we continue to challenge our students to learn the value of completing work in a way that they will genuinely see the benefits of their efforts.  Within our lifting segment we are looking for students to continually work on the form and understanding of how to complete lifts, and as they continue to get better at that process begin to add more resistance that will create an environment of forced or quality sets of work. 

We continually drive the conversation for the need to do things a certain way to see the benefits.  As different students progress and improve at different rates, we challenge some to take on roles of leadership and example in class, their groups and within different activities.

The focus of today was to complete 4 sets of squats, 4 sets of jumps on the plyo box, 4 sets of quality spotting of their partners and then introduce a self/peer assessment activity they will complete in the near future.  This assessment involves two components.  A “BUY-IN” component in assessing your level of work and then a “preparation” component that assesses how you come to class each day.  The combination of these two represents what the student brings to class each day.  The goal of this assessment is to truly look at how you utilize your time in class and recognize the need for improvement, maintenance or the ability to help others succeed.   It is important to remember that where you fall on the two-part assessment represents what we need to work on for success in the future.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Psychology - Part 2 Defining Learning

By Melissa Curtis, Devin Peterson, 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.  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:
  • lifelong.
  • not memorizing.
  • not random facts.

Learning occurs best when people are:
  • experiencing.
  • excited.
  • wanting to learn.  

How do you define learning?

Melissa Curtis (Teacher): Students being able to discuss a topic intelligently with each other and defending their thoughts, applying the concepts we learn in class to a real-life example, students generating thoughtful questions, proving their knowledge on summative assessments.

Devin Peterson (Student): Being able to process new information and then applying the information.

Paige Hermann (Student): I define learning as processing new information and being able to understand it.

How do you believe people learn best?

Melissa Curtis (Teacher): Multiple exposures to the material (in-class, on their own, review), testing yourself, discussing the material with others, applying the content to your own life, spacing out the studying over several days instead of cramming.

Devin Peterson (Student):  I believe people learn the best when there is a positive environment and there is some type of reward or punishment when learning and applying what was learned

Paige Hermann (Student):  I believe people learn best when they actually see it and they can see how it's done.

Book Chat: Fostering Resilient Learners (Part II: Self-Awareness)

In case you missed our book chat this morning, here was what was discussed.  In all honesty, we didn't get to all of the discussion points because our conversation on cement shoes was incredibly powerful.

How do we react to student behaviors?
How do we maintain control in times of chaos?
To start off this book chat, we read this blog post while reflecting on the question "Have you ever said or done something that you regretted?" We followed up with a long discussion on the following two questions: How does this story make you feel? How does this change your mindset moving forward?

Cement Shoes

  • Defining our sense of self so that no matter "how big the wave," we can stay true to our ideals, integrity, vision, beliefs, and self.
  • The more self-aware we become, the easier it is to manage the needs of our students.
  • Using your personal mission statement (i.e. your "WHY") to reflect on during those times when we are feeling most compromised and vulnerable

Staying Out of OZ

Remember Dorothy from Wizard of Oz?  She was seized by the tornado! Sometimes we are also caught in the tumult of disruptions to the learning environment.  

How do we create positive and safe environments for our students?
What strategies have worked in the past when a student has "tornadoed" through your class?  What do they need from you to regulate and move back into their "upstairs" brain?
"If it's predictable, it's preventable."

Square Peg, Round Hole
Round Holes:  the students who exhibit the desirable characteristics
Square Pegs:  the students who exhibit less than favorable attributes
“We often put a tremendous amount of effort into trying to make our square pegs fit into the round holes.  We try and try to force those column 2 students to exhibit desirable behaviors, but, inevitably, the two will never fit.
What if we gave up the notion of the round hole and instead made room for a group of amoebas?  Many of our students are just that: little amoebas trying to figure out what shape they want to become.  Those growing up with adversity and trauma have not had permission to even explore that possibility.” - Page 74

Communication Steps
  • Listen deeply to the message being sent by your communication partner
  • Reassure the person that her/his perspective is important
  • Validate her/his emotional state
  • Respond by explaining what occurred through your lens
  • Repair by apologizing for whatever role you may have played in the miscommunication
  • Resolve by coming to terms with what happened and collaborating to find alternative ways of acting to prevent future disruptions.

Fostering Resilient Learners, Kristen Souers with Pete Hall

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What do I want students to be?

By Mark Heintz

The inspiration for this post comes from the Modern Learners podcast with Pam Moran and Ira Socol. I recommend everyone listening to it.

What do I want students to be?  Most of my career, I answered this question with some vague response such as be college graduates, obtain a technical certification, or just generally have a life plan. I’ve also thought that students should be filled up with every discipline’s essential knowledge (not sure what that even means, but I am pretty sure I’ve said it. It also sounds cool: Essential knowledge.  Like every student will need to know when the Ottoman Empire took over the Byzantine. 1453. Sigh.).

But, that’s not really what the question is asking.  What do I want students to be? This isn’t just for when they leave school, or when they enter school, but also when they are in school.  So, let me rephrase the question: What do I wish all students were like?  If I could wave a magic wand and make all students have certain traits, what would those traits be?  Well, I’m waving my wand.  Here is what I want my students to be.

  • Students are healthy.  I want students to be healthy. It’s near impossible to learn if you aren’t.  And, it’s not enough just to know what good physical and mental health means. They should have good physical and mental health.  
  • Students are empathetic.  Students should care for others and be mindful of others’ lives.  Not just for those in their community, but for everyone.  
  • Students are learners. It’s disingenuous for a school to believe they can give students the skills and knowledge that will sustain them for life. But, we can make them learners. If they are learners, they will be able to adapt as the world changes.  What do I mean by learning? You can read that here. 
  • Students are curious.  They need to want to know things. They should enter school with questions needing to be answered and leave school with even more questions.
  • Students are in charge of their learning. They should have agency and make choices.  I wish for this deeply. 
  • Students are literate. I define literate by having competence or knowledge in a specified area. To rephrase, students are literate in the specified area of their choice.   
  • Students are connected. They should be collaborative with not only those around them, but should reach out beyond their community to help them and others debate, share, and diversify to maximize learning.
  • Students are persistent.  They should be able to continue learning about something that is curious to them and endure when things get challenging or daunting.  
  • Students are reflective. They should be thinking about what they did, how they did it, and what they would do differently. 
  • Students are decision makers.  When faced with a choice or the unknown, they should be able to make decisions that they thought out and not needing someone else to tell them what direction to turn.  
I want my students to be healthy, empathetic, learners, curious, in charge, literate, connected, persistent, reflective and decision makers.

Why aren’t most students this way? I know there are a lot of reasons outside of a teacher or school’s control.  But, I don’t want to be cynical; I want students to be this way.  This is my mission: To ensure every student is healthy, empathetic, a learner, curious, in charge, literate, connected, persistent, reflective and a decision maker. Instead of focusing on preparing them for an unknown future or browbeating content knowledge into them, I want to create conditions for these traits to develop if they aren’t already there.  My attention is to focus on lesson and course design to instill these qualities in them not to better teach the causes of World War I.  I aspire to have each day every student walking through the school have their teachers focusing on these ten characteristics.

 Call to Action

Write down what you want your students to be.  Then make a shift in your practice to allow for those things to happen.  If you are bold, and you should be, share your list with your students, your school, and make them public.  Debate them, change them, and hopefully get your school to have the same value system.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

School Chat - S1E2: Alyssa Trausch "What I Want School to Be"

By Mark Heintz

This is this second episode of School Chat, I sat down Alyssa Trausch a current sophomore at Elk Grove High School.  She wrote an amazing piece on what she wants school to be.  Here is an excerpt:

I want school to be a place where I love to go to every day. A place where learning is new, innovative, and exciting. When learning feels natural and not like all the content is being forced into my brain I have a tendency to remember it more.  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.

It's a message everyone should here and we should strive to make happen in our classrooms every day.  Have a listen.     

Monday, November 5, 2018

Finding Purpose: "Talk Less, Smile More"

By: Rachel Vissing

Last week I had the opportunity to see the musical Hamilton.  Though many would say I was late to the party, I had listened to the music many times prior.  Listening to the soundtrack, however, was not as powerful as putting the music with the context on stage.  I left with my brain running for many reasons, but for this blog post, I'm am going to focus on one important line:

Talk Less, Smile More

Let's see...where have I seen this before?  Oh yes!  My wise mentor, Linda Ashida, has been sharing a similar message for years, complete with a post-it note by her desk (which is still up despite her retiring at the end of last school year).  

Whether the line is from Aaron Burr telling Alexander Hamilton to keep his opinions to himself or Linda's philosophy of learning from listening to others, I find that I struggle with this.  Therefore, I'm challenging myself to button my lips and to observe and listen more.

With My Students
In the classroom, I have started asking myself "Do I need to be talking now?"  I am questioning whether or not students need specific information or whether they can pull it from prior knowledge or work with peers to obtain this information.  For instance, instead of giving notes on the key terminology in mathematical translations like I have done in previous years, my students brainstormed on the whiteboard wall all of the terms that are associated with the math symbols +, -, >, =, etc.  Instead of correcting or adding words that were missed, we worked together throughout various translations and made adjustments to the board throughout the week's lessons based on our findings.  

The experience was surreal.  Many students thrived, and I saw their confidence soar!  Other students struggled a great deal and questioned me, "Why aren't you telling us what to do?  I need notes in order to learn."  It was hard for me to stand my ground with these students and not cave to provide them what they were asking, but by the end of the week these students trusted in the process and found more confidence in their abilities.  When I noticed that most groups were struggling with a concept, I had another group go to the board and explain their thought process.  It was really eye opening for me to step back and allow the students to teach one another, and I plan to continue to facilitate these types of processes as much as I can.

With My Peers
I get very excited talking and collaborating with others about education, lesson ideas, and new methods of facilitating learning in the classroom.  Often times when I am talking with a peer, I find myself interjecting suggestions that I have observed in other classrooms or those that I have tried with my students because I get very excited to bounce ideas around.  I have realized that I sometimes cut off the other person's thinking or impose my own beliefs on them instead of allowing my peers to find what works best for them and their students.  I'm challenging myself to go back to my mentality as a student teacher: I am a sponge.  This was my philosophy of listening, absorbing, and processing all of the ideas around me and then figuring out what works best for my situation.  This is especially important in my role as instructional coach, to provide my peers with the tools to set goals, brainstorm lesson ideas, and self-reflect purposefully.  

So as I am adapting this phase as my new mantra, you can listen here to have a positive song stuck in your head the rest of the day!  Maybe it will influence you as well!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Pre-Calculus - Part 2 Defining Learning

By Dave Dompke, Kesha Patel, Alyssa Cobb, 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:
  • lifelong.
  • not memorizing.
  • not random facts.

Learning occurs best when people are:
  • experiencing.
  • excited.
  • wanting to learn.

How do you define learning?  

Dave Dompke (Teacher):  Learning is gaining knowledge through experiences.  Those experiences can be with teachers, friends, or by themselves.  It doesn’t have to be in a classroom setting.  Learning is not some quick fact that can repeat to you, but something that will stay with them longer than a day.

Kesha Patel (Student): I define learning as exploring new topics and gaining an understanding for them. It’s not really learning if you’re just memorizing a formula and using for problems that are written differently but based on the same idea. It’s more understanding why a formula works the way it does and being able to apply it to a problem that barely has anything to do with what I already learned. I think that’s when I can say I truly learned the concept.

Alyssa Cobb (Student): I define learning as acquiring new information whether school related, life/career related or simply a random fact. It can be something completely new or taking old information to better master it.

How do you believe people learn best? 

Dave Dompke (Teacher):  I believe people learn best when they experience it through activities they enjoy.  When they come across new ideas or concepts and are learning new things, they are excited to learn about it.  They want to know more.

Kesha Patel (Student): I think people learn best when they’re understanding what they’re learning. I feel like with all the math formulas I generally just memorize them and I don’t get how it was created and why it works every time. If I get why something works the way it does, I can work out problems with needing to memorize a formula.

Alyssa Cobb (Student): I believe people learn best when they get to pick the environment they’re expected to learn something. If you’re distracted or not able to focus and you’re not the one choosing how you’re learning or studying it really isn’t your fault if you’re not able to understand the concept, but with that, the learner has to be mature enough to pick a good place to learn. Also, a person with a mindset of wanting to learn will generally learn better than those who don’t have that same mindset. If you’re focused and willing you will be able to learn overtime time whether that’s quickly or a longer period of time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What's Your Zone?

By: Sara Derdiger

Imagine this: You had a big fight with a family member, significant other, or friend yesterday. You then, in your anger and frustration, fail to set your alarm and didn’t wake up on time this morning. You’re late. You’re angry. You’re probably also tired and even hungry because you had to rush this morning and didn’t wake up fully before bolting out the door without having breakfast. You get to work and a student isn’t listening...again...and you’ve just been asked to take on an additional task for the day. You’re about to explode, and the only one who knows it is you.

We’ve all been there. Part of being a person is dealing with the personal stuff, and sometimes we do this rationally, calmly, and maturely. Other times all of our coping skills vanish in a plume of smoke from the fire that is coming out of our ears Looney-Toons style. Imagine, though, being a teenager who is still learning coping strategies, might not have anyone to talk to, and probably has way bigger problems than those featured in my example above. That teenager walks into our school or classroom and before we know it, a power struggle ensues or a fight occurs. What if we could find out that our student is “in the red” before that interaction even occurs?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I watch our students interact with teachers and with each other. Last year I attended a number of PD sessions on Zones of Regulation, but I struggled with applying the Zones to high school students until now. What Zones do, as far as I’ve been able to decipher, is give students the language to talk about their feelings without having to spill all the details, and then teach them strategies to help cope with those feelings and re-regulate. It’s broken down into only four categories (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green) and each category is associated with certain moods, feelings, or situations, as well as levels of self control, none of which is “bad” or “good,” but rather just where a student is in that moment.
What I’ve seen in our classes is that students often don’t have the skills, language, comfort, or awareness to tell an adult what “zone” they’re in, nor do they have the strategies to ask for help or to self-regulate. If they’re not regulated (in the red, yellow, or blue), then they’re not ready to learn.

I wanted to create a quick and easy way for a check-in to take place, allowing students a method to provide us with that information in order to avoid or reduce conflict in our classes. This tool had to be accessible, easy to manage, simple to use, and provide language and strategies students may not be able to come up with themselves. It needed to show a level of support, but also put some of the responsibility on the students. The simplest solution I came up with was a Google Form. Students record the date and their name, then identify their zone using the included graphic. They are then presented with a checklist of things they need that teachers can help provide and a list of things they can do to help themselves. There is also now (at the suggestions of Ray Galarza and Kristen Lesniak) a space for students to set a goal for a new zone and to tell us anything else they want us to know.
Forms response chart. Question title: Today' I'm in the:. Number of responses: 330 responses.
One of the reasons I love this in a Google Form format is that it is easy to view the results of the survey and collect data by class, student, or date. Students can take a few minutes at the start of class to fill it out and submit and while they are doing a bellringer, working in groups, reading, etc. the teacher can quickly scan the results in Forms or an associated Google Sheet. It also gives the students suggestions for how to be proactive in getting what they need before the teacher even looks at it. You need to go see your social worker? Ask the teacher. You need to move away from distractions? Ask the teacher or move yourself. You need to step out for a second for a breather? Go get some water. For the teachers, it lets them know any students who might be in the red and lacking self-control. It gives information about regulation strategies that the student thinks will be helpful to him or her. 
Forms response chart. Question title: I need:. Number of responses: 330 responses.Forms response chart. Question title: I can help myself get to a new zone today by:. Number of responses: 330 responses.

This isn’t a perfect system, nor is it a one-click-and-your-done approach. The teacher needs to buy in and craft the survey to meet the needs of his/her students. There needs to be trust that the students are being honest in completing it and that the teacher will follow through on the options given to students for self-regulation. It will take a few minutes out of your class period, but it doesn’t need to be an everyday thing.

Here’s how this looks in our class: On Mondays and Fridays our students come into the room and scan a QR code that links to the survey or they find the link in Schoology. They check in. I shoulder-tap specific students who haven’t been filling it out or who do so inconsistently. I also take care to let specific students know that I really want them to fill it out regularly because we want to know if they’re doing ok. These two strategies have worked so far in increasing participation among the students we feel need it most. Then, when students begin working, I scan over the results (I’ve found this easiest to do in the linked Google Sheet). I make a mental note of our class’ general state, as well as any students who report needing specific things or make notes about things they want us to know. Any student who is “in the red” gets a subtle 1:1 chat with me once class gets going. It can be anything from, “Hey, I saw that you said you were in the red today. If you need to get some water or go to the bathroom for a break, go ahead, ok? Let me know if you need anything else, and I’ll check in again later” to “I saw that you said you wanted to talk to someone (a counselor, social worker, or teacher) today. Who do you want to talk to? I’ll write you a pass.” The follow through here is key. It lets students know we’re not collecting meaningless data and that we actually care about what they’re putting down.

The goal is to provide language and strategies for students and to hopefully reduce conflict in class. If we can teach these skills with just a few minutes in class, then the ideal would be for them to translate to students’ interactions with others out of class as well. My hope is that students will complete the check-in on their own without prompting whenever they feel they need it, and that eventually they will use the language in it to advocate for themselves without needing a survey at all. Having the tools and skills to advocate for themselves is a big step in decreasing conflict and increasing autonomy for our students. For us, it’s another way to interact and develop positive relationships with students and to build a classroom culture of respect, communication and understanding.

We asked our students for feedback on this survey and their responses were a mixed bag of, “It hasn’t helped at all” to, “It helps me think about how I’m feeling and let the teacher know if I need help.” Their feedback led to a follow up question: How do we make it better or more useful for them? Many of them didn’t know, but we did get some ideas that we intend to implement, like asking what classes they need help in or having 1:1 conversations with students in the hall, where they might feel more comfortable talking. Everything we do is a work in progress, and this form and its uses are no different.

If you’d like to try this in your classroom, you can find a copy of the form here. Feel free to make a copy of your own, edit it to fit the needs of your students and your classroom, and give it a try.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It's Easy to Create Curriculum

By Mark Heintz

It’s easy for teachers and schools to create a curriculum.  This comment was made in a recent Modern Learners book chat on Timeless Learning.  It’s easy, really?  I’ve spent a lot of time creating curriculum and codifying objectives.  Literally, I’ve spent years creating, reflecting, and fine-tuning. It’s difficult to figure out how the learning will take place and find a logical plan for content to be explored. It was hard to create it. So, that comment made me pause. And, I know many of you would argue with that point, too.

But, if I am being honest with myself, they were right.  By creating a curriculum, teachers plan all of the learning that will take place.  We create tasks, write tests, and develop daily lesson plans ahead of time.  In doing so, we put a limit on what we teach; therefore, we put a limit on what students learn.  It gives us an out.  When a student asks why they need to learn this, we can come back with authority, “It’s part of the curriculum.”  Or, if a student is curious about a topic, we can tell them that topic will be covered later or next year or in a more specific course.  We essentially take most of the thinking and student voice out of the learning. A curriculum that is planned out asks kids to be compliant instead of curious.  In the end, that’s easy.

So, what’s an alternative? 

We come up with questions that will lead to inquiry. We create conditions to tap into what they are curious about and show them how the content is present in what they already want to learn.  We push their thinking through different lines of questioning and give them resources that will challenge them. We get them to research.  We force them to make their thinking visible. We ask them to collaborate with others and share their learning.  We get them to reflect on what they learned, how they learned, and what they should do next.

I know what you’re thinking. What about standardized tests? Who are these magical kids that are self-directed?  Students who are learning for themselves will read, write, explore, and think more than those who are forced into learning. If they do the four things, they will excel on standardized exams because they will be learning for themselves. As for the magical kids, all students are curious.  They might not be curious about what we are teaching, but they are curious because all people are curious.  So, the “magical kids” are all kids. The barrier is the learning conditions. If you allow kids to learn the way they learn best, they will.

What does that mean for your class?

Start with a question. One that is open-ended and allows for multiple paths and potential answers. I quit concerning myself with the summative assessment and how it will go in the grade book.   Quit concerning yourself with summative assessments and how it will go in the grade book.  Let students learn. Let them debate the question and come up with the way to present their new understandings.  Let the assessment be created by the students, monitored by the students, and for the students to make sense of the questions they asked and the content they explored.  It’s hard to let go and be that free. But, try it for a few days, reflect on it, then try it again.

It’s not our fault.  We have been trained to do this.  I’m not throwing anyone under the bus.  Teacher training, our own experiences, and professional development are largely geared towards the traditional model of school.  Even American culture wants more accountability in schools, which would continue to favor the traditional model.

The American values put pressure of what the traditional, rigorous classroom looks like.  Imagine a guardian of a student walking into two different classrooms.  One where students have a book out, filling in a packet, taking diligent notes with a clear content objective to cover a particular topic by the end of the period. Or another, where students are talking about individual projects and are at all different places with the teacher bouncing around the room to engage with as many of the students as possible.  We have to overcome the historical legacy of the traditional classroom and the easier metrics of learning. It’s easier to collect learning data on students for content acquisition, rather than the more difficult task of collecting data on engagement, questioning, writing, reading, and critical thinking.

Now I get why they said it was easy.

It’s easier to create the final assessment that allows you to ignore the students’ interests along the way.  It gives you an out and a reason to shut down the things kids want to explore when they want because it’s not in the curriculum. It becomes the students’ fault for not learning the things you wanted them to learn at the pace you predicted they would learn. You told the students explicitly what you wanted them to know and some still couldn’t get it.  Furthermore, a teacher can be blamed for not having the right curriculum. If only the teacher would find the elusive right book, right scope and sequence, or the right material, they could be better.  Finally, a school can be blamed that their kids are not being as successful as others.  They can be fixed by having someone with THE MAGIC CURRICULUM that is PROVEN to work.

In the end, that’s a lot easier than learning together with your students, tapping into what they are interested in, being flexible in the learning environment that allows for choice and agency.  That is an art.  It takes immense skill to give the freedom to learn in a classroom.  There isn’t a silver bullet.  It takes a lifetime to continually work at because each year new kids with different interests and ideas come into your learning network.  That. Is. Hard.

A huge thank you to Kim Miklusak for editing this post and her constant willingness to debate me on pretty much everything.  

Friday, October 26, 2018

Book Chat: Fostering Resilient Learners (Part I: Trauma)

In case you missed our book chat this morning, feel free to read through the notes below!

How does trauma manifest itself in the brain?   
How is this shown in our students’ behavior in the classroom?

Introduction Video:  Hand Model of the Brain

  • Nearly 35 million U.S. children have experienced at least one type of childhood trauma. (National Survey of Children’s Health, 2011/2012)
  • One study of young children ages 2-5 found that 52% had experiences a severe stressor in their lifetime. (Egger & Angold, 2006)
  • A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. (ChildHelp, 2013)
  • In 2010, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children ages 12-17. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011)

Correlation Between Number of ACEs and Struggles with School and Health

3+ ACEs
2 ACEs
No known ACEs
The more ACEs a student experience, the more likely he or she was to experience serious school and health issues.

  • 45% of students had at least one ACE
  • 22% of students had multiple ACEs
  • 1 in 16 students had an ACE score of 4+

What Fight, Flight, or Freeze Looks Like in the Classroom
Fleeing the classroom
Skipping class
Seeming to sleep
Avoiding others
Hiding or wandering
Becoming disengaged
Acting out
Behaving aggressively
Acting silly
Exhibiting defiance
Being hyperactive
Exhibiting numbness
Refusing to answer
Refusing to get needs met
Giving a blank look
Feeling unable to move or act

Upstairs Brain vs. Downstairs Brain

Fostering Resilient Learners, Kristen Souers with Pete Hall

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Year in Learning at Elk Grove: Dual Credit College Composition Part 2

By Emily Mikuzis, Madison Reed, Jake Mizialko, Alexandra Glinski, 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 to Emily Mikuzis's class, Emily and her students reflected to see if what they had hoped for in my first visit came true.  We are attempting to build a reflective culture, where teachers and students come together to create the school they hope for.  The teacher and student are honest and collaborative.  We are fostering a sense of personal-intellectual collegiality.

Emily Mikuzis 

What do you hope to do for the next time?

Through the comparison of three engaging texts with very different structures and purposes, I hope to give students options for attacking their first writing assignment, Narrative as Argument. My hope is that students will begin to build confidence to make their own stylistic and structural choices in writing assignments. I hope to, throughout the semester, continue to create opportunities for students to work together to build understanding and hopefully begin to develop their own writer's voice through greater investment in our writing tasks.

What aspects of your hopes came true? This is a work in progress, but I think we are getting there. In each unit, I am trying to scaffold experiences that will allow students to dig into the real work of writing - the ruminating, the thinking, and the connecting that happen away from the computer. In each unit, we are working through choices, rather than prescribing them. Currently, we are working on evidence awareness to determine which kinds of support work best for which kinds of claims. As we build our argumentative essays, students are challenged to argue (almost) any claim. I want them to have a real investment in getting a reader to accept their claim and in choosing the evidence that is most effective, compelling, and convincing.

Madison Reed

What do you hope to learn for the next time? 

I hope to learn more about the other types of writings that are out there. Writing is one of my favorite things to do in school. I love the freedom of ideas and creativity it allows us as students to have most times. Also, I hope to learn how to better my writing abilities. So far in my senior year here at EGHS, College Composition has been one of my favorite classes and generally my favorite English class I've taken.

What aspects of your hopes came true? 

My hopes completely came true. We are on our third writing style/essay now and I have definitely learned more about the writing styles we have covered. I have also learned some tips and strategies to really rock writing in such styles.

Jake Mizialko

What do you hope to learn for the next time? 

For the next lesson, I hope to learn how you can you words, phrases, and sentences to help you learn more about the message that the author was trying to get across to his readers. I hope that students will be able to branch off of those three things and be able to incorporate it into their own writing. By practicing this task, this will allow students to strengthen their writing abilities and easily identify key parts to a story.

What aspects of your hopes came true? 

Students were able to use what they wrote in the planner in order to make a strong argument when the class was split.

Alexandra Glinski

What do you hope to learn for the next time? 

In the next lesson, I would hope to find a style of writing/narrative the best suits me. Trying and testing different essay structures will be a big part of finding out what I like. I want to be able to write an effective essay that not only has a good narrative but also gets my argument across. Hopefully, in our next few writing assignments, my best style of writing will become more clear to me.

What aspects of your hopes came true? 

Since we have been able to pick out topics for this next essay, I think it will be easy to experiment and find what really is the best style of writing for me and many others.