Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Student Voice: Engaging Students

By Mark Heintz

I have been going around school stopping students at random to hear what they feel teacher's do that impacts their learning.  It is so important to continually ask the population we serve to get their feedback on what helps them master the content and skills we are trying to teach.  The responses have been so insightful into what works for each of the unique learners that enter our classroom and can continue to drive the methods we use to instruct them.  Once I captured the student's voice, I tracked down the teacher to share and get their input on the practice that was highlighted. 

The student I asked in the video highlights the way Mr. Janu hooks his students at the beginning of a unit that engages students and increases motivation to learn. 

Here is Mr. Janu's perspective on how and why he hooks his students in history.

Monday, February 27, 2017

#214EdPrep: Collaborating in Professional Learning

This is the first in a series of blog posts discussing the collaboration of the Collab Lab and our EG Ed Prep students.  Please follow along on our journey using the hashtag #214EdPrep or clicking on the label #214EdPrep in the word cloud!

Students in the District 214 Ed Prep Program at EGHS, taught by Kim Sander, have begun collaborating with the Collab Lab on varied professional learning experiences. This previous post explains a workshop we did with the EdPrep students on how to use Social Media to learn, lead, build community, and to expand their professional portfolio. 

Most recently, the EdPrep students joined teachers in a class visit experience. The class was split into four groups, each accompanied by EG teachers, to observe a class for 20 minutes. We visited the classrooms of Persida Bujdei, Mark Heintz, Bonnie Kale, and Kim Miklusak. 

The focus of the class visit was to look for examples of learning target(s) and how they are communicated, and formative feedback (given by the teacher and/or peers). Here is the a document we used to take notes and to facilitate our conversation afterwards.

After the class visits we returned to the EdPrep Classroom to debrief in a jigsaw conversation.  Each group had at least one student from each class we visited, and at least one teacher facilitator. We discussed what we observed and learned in each classroom.

The students shared insight from both their student and future-teacher perspectives. The teachers were inspired, and we learned from them too! Here are some highlights of their observations:

Schoology quizzes before a test help students understand exactly what they know and don't know.  It isn't graded, it is just for learning.  Several students commented on how much they like these kinds of quizzes that they have done in some of their classes, and that they aren't graded.
Teachers gave clear explanations of how to do the practice for the learning targets, and then did a model problem/reading and then students worked in pairs. The modeling really helps. During the pair work the teachers gave feedback and students give each other feedback too.  We talked about how this intentional scaffolding (I do, we do, you do) supports learning.
The whiteboard tables are so good to foster collaboration and feedback. One student said she was so sorry she was "too old" that she missed out on having the whiteboard tables in her English class last year! 
The pros and cons of Quizlet live and Kahoot for feedback.  Quizlet is good at the beginning of the unit as a "hook" and for collaboration, but if your group doesn't finish before the winning group wins, you don't see all of the questions.  Kahoot is good to make sure every student sees all of the questions and gets individual feedback. It can get boring if teachers do them all of time. But they are so good for feedback.
It is helpful it is to plan activities with a model, small group work and time for students to then do it on their own (scaffolding).

We're looking forward to having the EdPrep students join us again for future professional learning experiences.  We have so much to learn from each other! 

You can connect with them too! Follow their Ed Prep journey via #214EdPrep on Twitter.  You can encourage them with a "like", a "retweet" or a comment!  The would LOVE to hear from you!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Student Voice: Questioning and Student Feedback

By Mark Heintz

I have been going around school stopping students at random to hear what they feel teacher's do that impacts their learning.  It is so important to continually ask the population we serve to get their feedback on what helps them master the content and skills we are trying to teach.  The responses have been so insightful into what works for each of the unique learners that enter our classroom and can continue to drive the methods we use to instruct them.  Once I captured the student's voice, I tracked down the teacher to share and get their input on the practice that was highlighted. 

The student I asked in the video highlights the way Mrs. Perkins questions at the beginning and the end of each class and allows time for students to process the material from the day before.

Here is Mrs. Perkins explaining how and why she uses the questioning strategy at the beginning and end of class. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sharing Learning Targets with Students

By Melissa Curtis

We’ve been hearing a lot about clear learning targets and meaningful feedback the last couple of years.  Many teachers I know have been using learning targets in their curriculum for years, but maybe not explicitly sharing them with their students or getting any feedback.  I have been using a simple yet effective way to use daily goals or learning targets in my classes that might be helpful to other teachers.

First, I have created a document called Daily Goals that I post in Schoology.
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Students open this document in Notability every week.  They can reuse the same one from week to week and just erase last week’s info.  Some choose to upload it from Schoology each week and “add to existing note” so they have one long note instead of 36 different ones throughout the school year.  Each day when they come into class, I have the daily goal projected on the screen for them to write down in the left-hand column.  I post these in my calendar in Schoology so even when students are absent, they can see the daily goal and any handouts/links we used that day.  Here is an example:

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At the end of class, I ask students to write a response to the daily goal.  This should be a thoughtful comment about what we learned that day in class.  It guides students and myself to focus on the clear purpose of the lesson.  By Friday, their daily goals document should look like this:


Every Monday, or first day of the week, I walk around the room and check their goals from the prior week.  I give students a small homework grade of 5 points for this.  The real value though is in getting a snapshot of what students learned that week.  In their own words, they are narrowing down my curriculum into the simplest forms.  I usually spot check one or two days for each student and I can comment on any mistakes they have made.  I can also get a sense of the whole class and clear up any misconceptions as a group.  

In my experience, students like the structure and routine of a class.  They know when they come in to take out their iPads and start writing down the daily goal.  At the end of class, it provides closure for the lesson and I can call on random students to help answer it for the whole class.  When students are absent, it provides a quick answer to “What did I miss yesterday?”.  It has become an expectation that most students buy into pretty quickly.  Yes, there are some who don’t do it or copy it from a friend, but you can monitor those individual cases pretty easily.  I have been doing this for years and like the simplicity and accountability of the daily goals.  Now, I will start calling them Learning Targets :)

Feel free to use or modify anything you see here!  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Grading Practices and Student Engagement

By Kristen Gierman 

As teachers, we are constantly reflecting.  But as the semester winds down, we devote a particular attention to grades.  That’s not to say we do not notice the successes and less than of our students throughout the semester, but we are more in tune with the trends within the grading system as the semester nears its end.

This year I noticed a striking oddity when it came to my particular gradebook for World History.  The lowest category across all of my classes was reading.  Now that’s not to say that my students cannot read, dislike reading, or just avoid it altogether.  But perhaps there was a flaw in the way we were assessing it OR in the strategies students were using to be successful.

Put simply, the reading of our World History sophomores is elevated compared to that of the Human Geography freshmen.  While most would argue that this would seem or should be a natural progression in a school setting, what I mean by this is that the stakes are raised tremendously.  As a member of both the Human Geography and World History teams the past three years, I have noticed that students generally succeed or find reading in Human Geography “easy” because the curriculum is about the world that they live in and in doing so help create.  For instance, analyzing the impact the media has on stereotypes is a normal process because the students live it, feel it, and perhaps have strong opinions on the matter.  World History, on the other hand, asks students to take a trip to the past, analyze verbiage from a different time, and find interest in the unfamiliar.  Comparatively speaking, for a student the task of reading becomes more complex or daunting than ever.  

As a result, I have made it a personal goal to incorporate more document-based work in the classroom this semester.  I am doing so in the hopes that students experience growth in their reading skills and confidence.  Furthermore, it will also require that they become engaged in historical inquiry.  The usage of documents forces students to ask questions, collect evidence, and produce claims about the past.  The difficulty with document-based work is that it can be extremely complex and time consuming.  The benefit, as I have already seen, is that the students have become more engaged in the process and their learning has become more authentic as we continue to practice this skill regularly.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Restorative Justice Practices in the Classroom

By Steve Lesniak

Restorative justice is a relatively new term being used in school settings across the country.  Call it what you want, but simply put, it is good practice.  Before I touch on how I use restorative justice in my classroom, it is important to understand how it connects to Senate Bill 100, passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2015 and put into place for the 2016-17 school year.  SB 100 essentially prevents schools from issuing discipline to students without documentation of interventions along the way.  While this may not be much of a change for many school districts, there is another component of SB 100 that has had a more visible impact on schools.  Unless students put themselves or others in harms way, it is extremely difficult to issue an out-of-school suspension to a student.  As I take time to reflect on SB 100, I see how restorative justice complements its goals very well.  Ultimately, if a student is cutting class, the idea is not to issue an out-of-school suspension.  The logic just doesn’t make sense.  “You’ve been cutting class, so we are going to punish you by not allowing you to go to class.”  Doesn’t this just give the student what they want anyway?  Restorative justice forces that student to stay in school and make up the work he or she missed in class.  More importantly, if utilized correctly, restorative justice will change student behavior.  

In my classroom, like many classrooms, there are students who are lacking motivation or can be a distraction to themselves and their peers.  In the past, many teachers, including myself, would have simply dismissed the student and sent them to the dean.  While this might seem like a quick fix, it really creates more headaches for teachers.  Now, that student has missed the lesson for the day and certainly won’t master any objectives set forth.  How can we utilize restorative justice in the classroom?  First, it is important to build a relationship with students.  Many students who act out have often been met with scolding and ridicule by adults.  While it is sometimes necessary to discipline students, it is also imperative that students know that teachers care about them.  Many of our most troubled students have been beaten down by the education system, and they might have bigger issues going on at home.  Establishing a relationship and showing students that they are in a safe and caring environment will help them to trust that we have their best intentions at heart.   Once that relationship is established, I like to redirect students’ disruptive behavior to questions pertaining to our lesson.  When a student acts out in my World History class, I immediately ask that student, or the entire class, how the people living during the time period we are studying would have handled the situation.  For example, right now we are discussing Absolutism and the Divine Right of Kings.  A student in my class was talking while we were going over a quiz.  I asked the class to share how an absolute ruler might handle the situation of a student showing flagrant disrespect.  It sparked great discussion and was a great segue into our discussion on the Enlightenment.  

While many classes do not have a way to relate their content to disruptive behavior, there are still ways to talk to students and have them assess their own behavior.  Kicking students out of class without following up shows them that we don’t care about their education.  Problem solving and taking time to talk with students is a better way to establish that positive relationship. Equally as important, it teaches students how to improve their behavior and performance in school.  Some may call this restorative justice, while others may just call it good practice.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Argumentation Skills Using Current Events & Gatsby

By Kim Miklusak

This year I have decided to flip the order of how we access The Great Gatsby.  In the past we have read texts that center around the idea of whether The American Dream is accessible to all people at all time and have used supporting text as analysis and comparison.  This year I have decided to start with prior knowledge of The American Dream and wait until the end of the unit to analyze whether it exists today and for all people, using this information to analyze Gatsby rather than applying it to Gatsby as we go.  To begin the unit, students brainstormed and wrote a 1-page response that I hung up on the walls for them to read now and return to later.

Then for 3 weeks (3 days each week) students will work in groups of 3-4 to analyze an article about a given "right."  Some of the rights are more "traditional" such as the right to arms, freedom of religion, freedom of speech.  Other topics are less traditional like the right to select your own gender label, the right to clean drinking water, and the right to quality literacy education.  Each group pulls a random envelope with an article--all recent, all from various political leanings and sources.  The students read and annotate and look up any other information they may need.  They then state the author's argument and analyze the limitations, applications, and implications using sentence starters and guiding questions.

Finally, students randomly drew defend/challenge as their stance.  Their task was to respond to the argument and provide convincing evidence and analysis as support in a 1-page written argument.  I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged students were in these discussions: some partners separated their groups to work in secret before sharing their work with "the other side."  Some groups worked together with "the other side" to talk about complexities as they worked.  At times students argued stances other than their own beliefs to respectfully challenge their peers verbally and in writing.  We pushed each other to look at other implications such as states' rights, identity, laws, etc. They also discussed the best ways to frame the argument and how to be most convincing in a short amount of space and time.

We will be broadcasting this lesson via Periscope on Tuesday, February 7th.  Check out our @EGCollabLab Twitter account if you're interested in tuning in.  I will write more about the assessment for the unit and reflections later!