Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Brings New Collaborations

Written by Linda Ashida

In all of the professional learning that the Collab Lab facilitates, we always look for opportunities to expand our collaboration across schools, both in person and virtually, using Periscope, Facetime or Skype, and Google Hangout.

We have written about some of these collaborations in previous posts:

In this post we'll highlight new collaborations we are enjoying this Spring.

April 2017 In-Service Day

Our April In-Service Day gave us the chance to connect with our colleagues at The Academy at Forest View.

The Collab Lab team planned a kind of hybrid EdCamp, giving all staff the opportunity to offer input on their needs and interest several weeks beforehand.  We used the feedback from staff to pre-plan some of the session offerings, and we also gave staff the opportunity to suggest workshops the morning of the In-service day.

Prior to the In-Service day, we got to thinking about the possibility of inviting some of our colleagues from the Academy at Forest View to join us, since, from prior collaborations, we knew that our staff had a shared interest in learning about, and/or sharing our practice, regarding social emotional learning and instructional technologies.

We weren't sure if the logistics would work to bring teachers together from two buildings, but we figured it didn't hurt to try! We thought it would be great, even if just a few of the teachers could join us, and if not in person, via Google Hangout or Periscope.

So, we presented our idea to Kara Kendrick, the Director of The Academy.  Not only was she open to the idea, but after sharing the idea with some of her teacher leaders involved in planning their day, we were able to work out a plan that would allow for the entire staff from the Academy to join us at Elk Grove for the morning EdCamp!

Staff from both schools facilitated sessions, and even student teachers and students joined in and presented too! As always, we documented our learning in each session using Google Docs so that we would all be able to access the notes for future reference, including for sessions we were interested in, but unable to attend.

Feedback from the day was very positive, with some great suggestions for future In-service days.  Almost all of the EG staff who completed our feedback form indicated how great it was to have this opportunity to get to know our colleagues from The Academy, and to learn with and from each other.  We have already discussed plans to continue our collaboration with them during the coming school year!

The visual below gives you a glimpse of some of the sessions.  Check out this link for more details.


Collab Lab Book Chat Series in May

A literacy research project done by our colleague, Katie Winstead, as part of her year-two Mentor Program project, inspired the Collab Lab to partner with Katie to host a book chat series.

We will meet on Tuesday mornings in May from 7:40-8:05 in the Collab Lab and we will read and discuss the book Readicide by Kelly Gallagher.

Each week we will share our key takeaways and questions. We will also reflect on our practice and, looking ahead to the coming school year, plan specific strategies that we can embed in our lessons to improve student literacy.

All EG staff are welcomed to join us, and we have extended the invitation to our colleagues across District 214 as well who will be able to join us via Google Hangout.

Look for future Collab Blog posts with updates on our Book chat series to see what we learn!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Classroom Tools for Engagement

In this previous blog post on a session from our April 3rd Institute Day, Peter King shared some multi-purpose tools for teachers to provide feedback through engaging activities.  Here are some additional tools for the classroom that can be use to increase student engagement.

- Bouncy Balls is a website that monitors the noise levels in the classroom. As the class gets louder, the balls bounce higher. It is a visual reminder for students to keep sound down in the classroom.  You can adjust the sensitivity based on your preference or the activity in class.

- Noisli generates white noise to help students concentrate in class. There are numerous options of noise to choose from including rain, wind, the ocean, etc.

- InstaGrok allows students to research a topic through an interactive web. They search a topic and then general subtopics pop up. Students are then able to explore their topic by watching videos, reading articles, and search images to help them better understand a topic or concept.

- Memegenerator allows you to explore existing memes or create your own. This is especially fun to use with a Quizziz activity!

- Tagul is a teacher-generated word cloud, which you can adjust the shape and color of the image. This could be a great study tool for students or just something fun to decorate your classroom with!

- Mentimeter creates a word cloud from student input, based on a question or topic that the teacher poses. One teacher suggested that this would be a great idea to intro a unit as a KWL. Peter suggested using this also to build relationships by asking "What did you do this weekend?" or "What did you do over Spring Break?"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Motivating Students with Feedback

In April we enjoyed a joint In-service Day with staff from the Academy at Forest View. 

Prior to the In-service day we solicited feedback from staff to tailor the sessions that would be facilitated d by teachers from both schools.

We offered several sessions on formative assessment, including one offered by by Peter King and his student teachers from The Academy at Forest View. They shared a variety of  multi-purpose tools for teachers to provide feedback through engaging activities:

This is an assessment tool in game form.  Students compete against one another but are able to work at their own pace.  You can adjust settings for time, order of questions (random or set), due date, etc.  Students get to create an avatar, and they receive funny memes after each answer they select.  Teachers can pull from pre-made quizzes and share their own quizzes with other teachers.

Here is a teacher-led, student-engaged activity for the classroom.  You can import an already created presentation into Nearpod, and enhance it with interactive formative activities for students to answer a questions, watch a video, or draw a diagram.  Teachers can dictate which slide all devices are on, or you can set it into student-led mode.  Here, teachers are also able to share their presentations or pull from the public domain of already created Neared activities.

This activity provides students with an interactive way to showcase their knowledge of multiple choice and true/false questions.  Students hold up their assigned QR code in the direction of their multiple choice answer (A, B, C, D, E), and the teacher scans the QR codes with his or her iPad.  Students are able to answer without feeling self-conscious, only seeing whether or not their answer was read by the iPad, while the data is immediate for the teacher to see who answers which questions correctly.

Here is a competitive, timed formative assessment method for multiple choice questions.  Students compete against their peers to answer prior to the buzzer, with the correct answers in quicker time get awarded more points.  The leaderboard is updated after each question.  Now, they have updated to allow for a Podium of top 3 winners, instead of just the sole winner.  This increases motivation with students to keep competing, even if they aren't in first place.  Lastly, they have added a feature called "Jumble", which is designed for questions that rearrange events, build a step-by-step order, or unscramble concepts.

This website allows you to quickly turn a Google Sheet into a fun activity.  You can choose from creating notecards to a Jeopardy game, crossword puzzle, Bingo game, a Mad Lib, and many other engaging activities for students.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Vive la collaboration! A Language and Cultural Adventure in Europe!

By Kirsten Fletcher & Effie Kalkounas

On Thursday March 23rd, 2017 a group of upper level French students, led by Kirsten Fletcher of Elk Grove High School and Sara Kahle-Ruiz of Rolling Meadows, embarked on a whirlwind tour to France, Switzerland and the principality of Monaco.  Chaperones included Effie Kalkounos of Elk Grove High School, and Caleb Parnin, Linda Thorson, and Tim Waters of Rolling Meadows High School.

The itinerary included the city of lights, Paris and its beautiful landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, L’Arc de Triomphe.  Students then took the TGV- Train à Grande Vitesse, France’s bullet train, to Switzerland.  Mrs. Kahle-Ruiz had grown up in Switzerland and showed the group many of her favorite sites. Their stops in Switzerland included Geneva and Lausanne where students witnessed firsthand the beautiful Alp mountains.  In Geneva, students connected to history and science content as they visited the UN and CERN. After Switzerland, the group went to Grenoble France, a beautiful mountain town where students saw breathtaking views at the top of the mountains. Then, students stopped in the magical town of Annecy with its pristine lake and backdrop of the Alp mountains.

After that, students boarded a bus and were off to the south of France: Provence, which is Mrs. Kalkounos’ favorite part of France! With its sunny climate, exquisite beaches and Mediterranean flair, it is no wonder why people flock to the French Riviera. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm.  The people were friendly as they tried to coax us into their stores to buy lavender and various other trinkets.  The best part of the trip, in my opinion, was the Mediterranean boat cruise in the village of Cassis.  The natural beauty of this area was astounding! The group finished their trip in Nice. Ah yes, isn’t it nice to be in Nice! The students were able to go to beach and dip their toes in the Mediterranean, walk through the Promenade des Anglais and enjoy lovely French food like salade niçoise, crêpes, croissants au chocolat and more. The group even took the opportunity to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie in French!

Because the trip was limited to students currently enrolled in French classes, the tour guide was able to give students a lot of information in French. She interacted with them and encouraged them to speak and read French at every opportunity. Every evening we were treated to authentic French food. The students who participated in this trip were enthusiastic about trying new foods, using their French, and learning to interact with the local culture. Read on to see what our own students wrote!

And to finish with a reflection from student Anna Slezak:

"This year's trip to France and Switzerland was a wonderful opportunity which built my confidence and taught me how to adapt in a foreign setting. It expanded my cultural sensitivity, teaching me how to act in unfamiliar situations. Simple things like ordering lunch or asking for directions push me out of my comfort zone and taught me to connect with people despite differences. Now I want to become fluent in the French language with the hope of coming back one day and carrying out a full conversation. I'm very thankful for the chance to explore this amazing country and learn about its culture and language."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Using Metacognitive Strategies to Increase Student Reading Engagement

By Jackie Figliulo 

Whether asking students to engage with class-assigned texts or books of their choosing during independent reading, I’ve always struggled to get students interested in being readers.  And why should they be interested?  Because-the-teacher-said-so works for very few students.  Then when a text challenges students, its subject matter is “boring,” or their cell phones are mere inches from their itching finger tips, because-the-teacher-said-so just simply won’t cut it.  

Enter metacognitive strategies.

Telling students to think about their thinking piques their interest as we start our class each year.  Showing them that we all approach and experience a variety of texts in our own way allows them to understand there is no one way to be a reader and a thinker. Showing students it’s ok to not know everything and to ask questions is a valuable part of being a reader.  Promoting metacognitive strategies in class also tells students that their individual experiences matter and are valuable.  
In my English classes, I most intentionally employ metacognitive strategies during independent reading.  Students bring a book of their choosing to class on Fridays and are instructed to read for a given amount of time (25 minutes in quarter one, 30 minutes in quarter two, etc).  Once they’ve read, they complete a metacognitive reflection, answering five out of seven questions that applied to their reading experience that day.  Each quarter we make improvements to the reflection sheets so that students can use them in ways that make most sense to them as critical thinkers.

Now, how can I assess students’ thinking and reflections in a meaningful way? The metacognitive conversation.  

Each quarter, I return the students’ reading reflections all at once.  They get to look through their reading experiences from the last ten weeks and reflect on their progress, problems, and evolving thinking.  Using their own reflections as evidence, students prepare for our summative assessment:  the metacognitive conversation.  

Students must prepare for the metacognitive conversation by answering six to seven questions about their reading for the quarter.  They must reflect on what they did throughout the quarter and then set goals or propose solutions to their reading road blocks for the following quarter.  The day before our formal conversation, we review the procedure, expectations, and evaluation [see assignment sheet], then choose two student facilitators to guide the discussion the next day.  In order to participate, students must have their reflections and admittance slip (completed questions).  During the conversation, students discuss their thinking, approaches to the text, problems they encountered, and make recommendations to each other about text choices or methods.  At the close of the conversation, students complete a self assessment of their performance during the discussion.  Their reading reflections, admittance slips, self assessments, and my notes make up their final grades.  
The metacognitive conversation is a valuable, focused evaluation of one of my overarching quarter learning targets: students will be critical thinkers of texts and their own thinking.  It allows students of all reading levels to show growth and be measured on their own personal progress.

Another benefit of using metacognitive strategies and this method of assessment is the community it builds in our classroom.  I come to know how my students think as individuals and can use that to inform and differentiate my instruction.  Additionally, students get the chance to relate to one another as academics, not just as peers sharing the same space each day.  

I continue to struggle with intentionally embedding metacognitive strategies in all parts of our curriculum.  I hope to create a classroom where individual, critical thinking becomes the class norm, not just something we do on certain days.  However, the metacognitive conversation days give me hope that my students and I are at least on our way!

Please feel free to come observe a metacognitive conversation at the end of May (exact date, TBD) periods 2, 3, 6, 7, 8! :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Are Creative Projects a Dying Art?

Lately, as I reflect on my unit plans, I find myself continually coming back to the same questions. What is the purpose of this activity? Is this going to help my kids master the learning targets? Is this going to give me the information I need about where they are currently at with regards to mastery? When I answer these questions truthfully, it sometimes means that I no longer see any justification for some of the “fun activities” that go along with novels I am teaching. As much as we have a good time creating funny Facebook profiles for Lady Macbeth, I’m not totally convinced that the activity provides anything more than just a few laughs. But, does that mean that I should cut out all opportunities for creativity in my classes? I sure hope not.

I recently gave my Honors World Literature students (sophomores) an opportunity to demonstrate in a creative way their understanding of Chinua Achebe’s important African novel, Things Fall Apart. I asked them to focus on important themes, character development, cultural significance of the novel, and/or metaphorical and philosophical analysis of the text. They had a lot of freedom in designing and implementing their visions, but the learning targets were the same for everyone:

  1. I can thoughtfully evaluate and explain important themes, characters, and significant events in Things Fall Apart.
  2. I can understand the point of view of a particular culture presented in a work of literature.
  3. I can provide formal, written analysis to explain my creative project, including textual evidence (quotes + page #s).
  4. I can speak with enthusiasm and expertise when presenting to my classmates.

It might sound cheesy,  but watching these students really pour their hearts into their projects was nothing short of inspiring. I was truly blown away by their creativity. More importantly, I was thoroughly impressed by their insightful commentary and meaningful conversations with classmates regarding the novel. So, was this creative project a worthwhile assessment? I’ll let you be the judge.

For more information on each project, please leave a comment or contact Kristen on the Twitter link above!