Thursday, January 18, 2018

One Year in AP: Student Perspective (Week Twenty)


By Mark Heintz

Context

I have two main focuses as I write this weekly blog. Two driving questions that I have in my mind while making decisions.  They are:
  • How do I know if my students know? 
  • How do I get them to know if they know?  
Whether that is a skill or content, I want to know if they know it.   I no longer think it is acceptable for me to guess or get a feeling on whether or not they know it. Getting the students to know if they know it is down right hard, but I am really attempting to get to a point where the students can recognize their understandings or progress on their skill levels and content knowledge.  Therefore, the purpose of this year of reflection is see how I make progress towards these two goals and elicit feedback from staff, students, and hopefully people who follow along in the journey.  You can read how last week went here.

Week Twenty: Answer the Question

This week the content focus was primarily on Atlantic Revolution from 1750-1900. Here were the standards for this week:
  1. List three causes to the enlightenment and four enlightenment thinkers and their ideas.
  2. List two causes, methods, and outcomes to the French, Haitian, and Latin American revolutions. 
This week's skill focus was still centered on analyzing charts, maps, and texts and pulling evidence from documents to support a claim.
  1. Write one cause/effect, and one comparative short response that reflects understanding of essential content.
  2. Analyze charts, maps, graphs, and texts.
  3. Write a thesis statement, contextualize a prompt, and draw evidence from two documents to support the thesis.  
Cite Specific Evidence

First, how do I know that the students know the content and how to do the skills?

This semester, I am including, or trying to include student's perspective on the week.  For this week's post, I asked two students to document their learning on the standards.  It was a great week to do this, for I missed two days this week due to a family emergency.  I shared a Google Doc to document their progress.  Each day,  I looked at the shared document to view their understandings of what took place during the day.

Grace and Michelle volunteered to document their learning and reflect this week.

Here is what Grace had to say.

Evidence

We had to pull evidence from two readings about how it affected the Atlantic revolutions.



Reasoning- The topic was enlightenment. I didn’t fully understand why we were learning about it but I assumed it was because these people were the first to question [governments rule over] humanity. I haven’t started the checklist, so when I start tonight I will probably understand more of how it affected society. This topic is somewhat easy to comprehend because it relates to topics in American history, like the freedom of speech in the constitution and how many people question government which led to conflicts. So when Voltaire talks about the freedom of speech and religion and Montesquieu talks about government, it is something we can relate to rather than a random empire in Africa that had certain traditions.




DBQ
Evidence



Reasoning- We had a sub today and we were slightly off task from what were were supposed to do (matching terms and definitions) but hey it was educational! If anyone has heard of the game headbanz then you’ll understand what we were doing. We had an impromptu game of headbanz with the terms we were supposed to match to the definition. We picked a term for Katia which in the video was nationalism. She had to ask yes or no questions to try and guess which term she held on her head. It was challenging especially when David and I had to determine whether each term fit what question she asked. We also had to write a paragraph of the DBQ that we contextualized the previous day. We kind of forgot about it until the last 10 minutes since we were preoccupied and scrambled to write it. Needless to say, it wasn’t our best DBQ but we understood the topics since we played our fun game. Since we’ve been doing DBQs most of the year, DBQs aren’t that much of a struggle. However, for me personally, I have a hard time with contextualization, even though it seems like it would be the easiest. I honestly don’t know why, but remembering what happened in the previous time period that relates to the topic is challenging for me. However, pulling evidence from a document and analyzing it is pretty easy for me. That’s why I’m in debate haha.

Revolutions

Reflection-The Haitian, French and Latin American Revolutions were easy enough to understand. The outcomes were slightly difficult to remember, mainly because they were pretty different. They all had to do with rebelling against a single person or idea, like the government or slavery. The three revolutions all had charismatic leaders, just like we learned in other empires or religions. To master the revolutions, I think it is important to memorize specific events for each, so when you see a certain phrase or persons name, you automatically connect it with the revolution. For example, when I hear Reign of Terror, I know automatically it was during the French Revolution and it was used as a method of control.

Here is what Michelle had to say.

Evidence


This is the revolutions activity that helps with the contextualization in the DBQ. Alliteration and the sources helps remember about crucial thinkers.

Beginning to write the DBQ was not too challenging because we had the information on other documents and simply had to piece it together.



Reasoning



During the week, we learned about the causes of enlightenment and revolutions. Revolutions were taught first during class, and I think it was a little rushed only because we didn't have enough time to talk it over at the end. However, the content on the checklist really helped clarify any questions or confusions I had on the causes of the revolutions. It's now easier to comprehend why the revolutions happened and the results they had, so I know this subject pretty well. Next came the idea of enlightenment and I was initially confused on what it was a response to, but the document activity provided further helpful information along with the checklist. Using words like “vocal” and “many branches” helps the information stick and me understand and remember what the thinkers believed in. I'm pretty confident with the subject of enlightenment and I think it was taught well. With the information we learned, I think it'll be fairly easy to write a strong DBQ about the revolutions and enlightenment, so I also think that we mastered all the goals for this week.

Reflection and Impact

First of all, I love their honesty.  In the first paragraph of Grace's stated, "I didn’t fully understand why we were learning about it but I assumed it was because these people were the first to question things about humanity. I haven’t started the checklist, so when I start tonight I will probably understand more of how it affected society." I love this! It was the first lesson of the semester and they did not have a lot of background knowledge on the subject as they had not learning been taught anything directly about the Enlightenment.  Because there was no stage set for them, the Enlightenment was confusing to the students, and I need to set the stage for students better in the future.

Grace had another powerful insight, without realizing it.  She stated, "However, for me personally, I have a hard time with contextualization, even though it seems like it would be the easiest. I honestly don’t know why, but remembering what happened in the previous time period that relates to the topic is challenging for me." Her inability to recall content from a previous time period is the major reason  I have focused on the contextualization skill for so long.  It is hard.  Seemingly easy, but categorizing information by time period is incredibly difficult.

When I was absent, they were not fully on task.  I knew that would happen, but at the same time, their reflection was amazing.  It was a great insight to their comprehension of the task. Their pictures were priceless.  I appreciate their honesty in posting the pictures, yet still describing that they know what they are doing.

I already have made modifications to my lessons because of their reflection.  The more I write this blog, the more I realize that is for them.  As I hope to continue this weekly reflection, I want to get more students to document their learning, so they can reflect and impact changes that will directly help them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Back to Basics: Connecting with Parents/Guardians in the New Semester

By Kim Miklusak 

For many schools the new semester is upon us or rapidly approaching.  For some this means all new classes; for others it means possibly some new students.  Either way it makes me think about the importance of connecting with parents and guardians throughout the year--not just during the opening days.

It's easy to get bogged down with the hustle of the new semester.  At the beginning of the year, we make our agendas and materials available to students through our LMS or by other means.  We may hand out syllabi or send home welcome letters.  But what do we do mid-year?  Do we make regular contact with parents/guardians just to keep everyone up-to-date?

One parent's perspective: 
Although we may not always hear back from parents, or we may be frustrated if we receive "Undeliverable" emails, many parents do receive the message and are grateful for it!  One parent, who has a current senior student and one graduated student from our school, responded:

"I truly appreciate communication from the teachers through Infinite Campus.  Even though my daughter was very organized and very few assignments were completed last minute, I felt it was beneficial for us knowing about the big projects or reports coming due so we had an idea of the stresses she would be under and to encourage her to make the right choice when other social opportunities arose that would take time away from working on her assignments.   I realize she should be responsible for her work, but it helps parent encourage and teach their children how to time manage."

One teacher's perspective: 
In order to reach out to parents and guardians of students who are missing assignments--and to reach out again to remind students of their own work--Psychology teacher Melissa Curtis uses the "Message Center" screen on Infinite Campus to send form emails to students, parents, and guardians two weeks before the end of the quarter to fill everyone in on missing work!

Once she has the template saved, it is easy for her to send out messages to students who have any assignments that are marked as missing in the grade book.  The automated email fills in the blanks below with the students' names, the names of missing assignments, and directs them to the portal for more information!

If any teachers would like more information on sending out templated emails like this one, be sure to contact us, and we can show you how and connect you with other teachers who are doing the same!   Or if you have other ways you reach out to parents and guardians throughout the year, leave us a comment below!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Reading Essays in Math...What?!

By: Rachel Barry

A Math Teacher's Jealousy
I admit it, I'm jealous of English teachers.  All of the time.  I hear about the moving essays that students write in their English classes, sharing insight into the students' pasts.  There is a different, deeper relationship that can be built when you have read someone's words and heard details of their life experiences.  When I talk to English teachers, I am amazed by the openness that students are willing to share their personal stories, of which I am then jealous that I am not privy to seeing this side of my students.  Also, at a school with students from many different backgrounds, including numerous students who do not call English their first language, these teachers are better able to understand the student's level of English proficiency.  

If I ask my students to write an essay outside of class, would they do it?  Am I adding to their plate when this is not a skill assessed in either of the courses that I teach?  Will they do this if it is not for a grade?  After much brainstorming, I came to what I believed was a solid solution.  What if I asked students to submit an essay that they have already written?  I finally decided that I just needed to find a platform to be able to read my students' writing. 


As students were finishing up their finals before Winter Break, I asked them to submit any essay that they have written.  For some of my seniors, this could be a college admissions essay, while for my other students, I offered that they submit an essay in which they share insight into who they are as an individual or an essay that they are proud to have written.

This. Was. Awesome.  
I learned soooo much.  I learned about a student navigating life with immigrant parents, a student who had a parent suffer a life-threatening accident and the journey towards recovery, a student who had been diagnosed at a young age with epilepsy, a student who skipped a grade in elementary school, a student who is a DREAMer, and many students shared their passions for various sports/activities/technologies.

This exercise has not only opened my eyes to future possibilities, but it has also opened the dialogue with other teachers.  

Call To Action
Now that I have a much better understanding of students' writing abilities, I want to build more writing in math.  I want to focus on building opportunities in my math courses to have students write more in class, to express their mathematical understandings.  In a future blog post, I will reflect on the writing about the current mathematical content.


If you have other ideas for interdisciplinary activities that can gain insight into students' writing and/or details of their life, please share by stopping down in the Collab Lab or in the comments section on this blog!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

One Year in AP: End of the Semester (Week Nineteen)

By Mark Heintz

Context

I have two main focuses as I write this weekly blog. Two driving questions that I have in my mind while making decisions.  They are:
  • How do I know if my students know? 
  • How do I get them to know if they know?  
Whether that is a skill or content, I want to know if they know it.   I no longer think it is acceptable for me to guess or get a feeling on whether or not they know it. Getting the students to know if they know it is down right hard, but I am really attempting to get to a point where the students can recognize their understandings or progress on their skill levels and content knowledge.  Therefore, the purpose of this year of reflection is see how I make progress towards these two goals and elicit feedback from staff, students, and hopefully people who follow along in the journey.  You can read how last week went here.

Week Nineteen: Answer the Question

What is the impact of reflecting on student learning for an entire semester?

In short, weekly reflections focused my teaching on the students' learning of the intended curriculum.  I know that seems like a common sense statement, but I feel a lot of instruction can focus on the teaching instead of the learning. Because of this weekly blog, I am focusing on the outcome rather than the delivery system.  Since the purpose of the weekly blog was on student learning, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the students' learning increased.  As first semester concludes, I am taken aback by how much my students grew.   I want to reiterate that it has been the students who made the gains and it is them I am praising.  They are the ones who are being applauded for their growth and continued ability to demonstrate mastery of the content and the skills.  This blog merely has been a way for me to document their growth and prompt more intentional and deep reflection on my part to  guide their future learning.

I thought I would share a positive moment.  Over break, the girls in the picture above sent me this picture of them getting together.  They were in a group for a large portion of the semester and continued to get together over break.  The picture made me happy.  Just a happy moment.

To get back to the normal flow of the blog, what was the goal of the week? To give context on the as to what the week before winter break looked like, the students took finals this week.  I only saw my particular students two days.  Over the course of that two-day period, I administered a three part final.  The final was cumulative, therefore I will forgo the usual listing of all the content standards, because I have documented the many standards throughout the previous eighteen posts and there are too many to list in this particular blog. If you are so inclined, you can go back and find all of the content goals.

Despite the large number of content standards, this week's skill focus was still centered on analyzing charts, maps, and texts and pulling evidence from documents to support a claim.
  1. Write one cause/effect, and one comparative short response that reflects understanding of essential content.
  2. Analyze charts, maps, graphs, and texts.
  3. Write a thesis statement, contextualize a prompt, and draw evidence from two documents to support the thesis.  
Cite Specific Evidence

First, how do I know that the students know the content and how to do the skills?

I do not want to get too much into the data. I love data, as it is one way to determine if progress is being made; however, as the purpose of this week's post, I merely want to point out that the students excelled in all three portions of the test.


1. An eighty question multiple-choice content exam.  These are just basic fact recall on all content that has been covered in the year.  The class averaged two points higher than the previous unit exam.

2. A document based question writing portion on the Columbian Exchange.

The students were assessed using the following rubric:


The final examination increased requirements over the previous unit exam.  The document-based question included two more documents than the previous unit exam.  Despite the increase in the number of documents, the students maintained their proficiencies. 

3. A twenty question multiple-choice stimulus exam.

Here was the biggest student increase: the class averaged one and half points higher than the previous unit exam.

Explain the Reasoning 

What do all of those numbers mean and tell me?

At the beginning of this week's blog, I stated that reflecting each week increased student learning.  This cohort of students entered the school year behind last year's students.  There were more students who had never taken an AP course and the group who had taken an AP course prior to this year were not as successful as previous cohorts of students in that class.  By focusing on student learning, the students rose to the same ability level as last year's students in one semester!  Basically, this cohort of students have excelled beyond expectations.  They have become better writers.  They have become better readers.  They have more understandings of human history.  They have a better comprehension of global processes and agents of change.


Reflection and Impact

While documenting student learning each week consumed a significant portion of my time, the process was incredibly worth while because I know the students are getting better. Not only do I know they are getting better, the blog has increased relationships with the students.  About six weeks ago, I started sharing the blog with the students. I post the link in Schoology for them to access.  Since this blog has served as a tool to increase my focus on them, I want them to read my thoughts each week about what we did.  I care deeply about their progress and I feel the blog helps convey that students.

As powerful as this blog has been, I am shifting the focus for second semester.  I am hoping to get more student voice in the posts.  Each week I hope to have a few students document how they know if they know it or don't know it when reflecting on the learning targets each week.  Since the purpose of this blog, and the weekly reflections, is to impact student learning, I feel I need to get more of their input and allow their voice to be a driving force in the blog. So, as I continue to hopefully post each week, you will read more of their input.  I cannot wait to see what will be documented!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"I Just Keep Myself Positive." S1E8 We Are EG Podcast

By Linda Ashida

I had the great fortune to meet EG student Ben Jasutis on the day he stopped by the Collab Lab to sit down with Bruce Janu to record his story for our We Are EG podcast. I'm so glad I did!

We introduced ourselves and chatted briefly before Mr. Janu arrived. I was struck immediately by Ben's outgoing personality and sense of humor. Within minutes I enjoyed hearing one of his jokes and learning that we were both Packers fans! It made me smile to hear him share how he came to be a Packers fan, and the bonds and rivalries over sports that he enjoys with his brothers.

When Bruce arrived, I coudn't help but stay for the interview learn more about Ben and the story of the significant medical challenges he faced early in life, the radical surgery he had to remove a part of his brain, and how he keeps himself positive no matter the challenge.

Take a listen. His story will inspire, and it is bound to make you laugh and smile, too!