When I started teaching in 1989, we didn’t have standards. We had textbooks and the common sense we were born with to cover what we thought students needed to be successful in this world. As an English teacher, I chose which books I wanted to teach. I knew I needed to cover writing which included grammar, spelling, sentence structure, transitions, word usage, parallel structure, voice, and ideas. I also knew I needed to cover both fiction and non-fiction comprehension. To assess student learning, I created quizzes and tests that usually had fill in the blanks, short answer, and essay questions. I didn’t assess by standard. I didn’t know to make sure my assessments were balanced with a fair amount of questions to assess each skill I had taught. Basically, it came down to whether students remembered what I had said and whether they could imitate what I had shown them. My teaching was teacher centered.
Fast forward 30 years. We now have standards telling all teachers what a student needs to know on a continuum from K-12. We have No Child Left Behind which focuses on the collection of data and the proof of growth. We also have competency-based learning and personalized learning along with Project Based Learning and blended learning to name a few. What all of these learning methods have in common is the tracking of student progress.
While working with a high school, our focus was on students tracking their own mastery as a boost to student agency and ownership. Setting up a tracker is easy if you base it on standards. Below are trackers I created for my teachers who were using USA Test Prep, a software system that both teaches and assesses and works quite nicely as a complement to classroom teaching. (Disclaimer: I do not work for or get any compensation from USA Test Prep.) Spreadsheets are best to use for creating trackers because they are already set up in a grid system. You can choose to have students run horizontally or vertically with the standards and indicators running perpendicular to the students.
The trackers below are for a wall and could be used for celebrations instead of the long-held belief that they are for shaming. If we celebrate every student who shades in a block to show mastery, every student will want to shade in another block. If used as a positive, community-building chart, tracking data can be powerful.
Another way we can use the tracker for community-building is for helping one another. From this tracker students know to whom they can turn if they haven’t mastered a standard yet. If I am a student struggling with standard 6.1 Theme, and I see three other classmates who have mastered it, I can ask them to explain it to me. Sometimes, students communicate better to one another. It definitely helps if the teacher schedules community time and encourages students to seek and give help as needed.
Sample Student Trackers
English 2 EOC Skills Student Tracker
English 2 Student Progress Tracker
Algebra I Skills Student Tracker
Algebra I Student Progress Tracker.
Biology Skills Student Tracker
Biology Student Progress Tracker.
US History and Constitution Skills Student Tracker
US History & Constitution Student Progress Tracker
Within USA Test Prep, there is a Student Dot Rank, which tracks mastery of skills within specific categories like assessments or within all categories including games and activities. Green=80%+ mastery, Yellow=60-79% mastery, and Magenta=1-59% mastery. Here is an example of what you will see:
Software programs that help track mastery are a blessing because they are able to track amounts of data that humans could never track manually. However, it is possible to track data without the aid of a software program. That topic will be covered in my next blog, so stay tuned.
If you are tracking student data and have questions or tips to share, please use the comments area below. Also, feel free to contact me directly for a conversation about student skills tracking. This is an area that many of us can still grow in.
If you are interested in receiving a copy of any of the trackers, please click below on the respective trackers.
As a coach assisting teachers with technology integration and personalized learning, I notice patterns arising from teacher to teacher. One pattern that I have noticed is that a teacher, no matter how strong he/she is, hits a wall whether earlier or later when it comes to progressing to the next level. In every situation in my experiences, the reason is the same: absence of climate and culture. Although I didn’t see it early on, I see it clearly now. The importance of climate and culture in a classroom and across a school are imperative to positive technology integration, personalized learning, and empowered learning. In this post, I share my experiences and ideas for how to improve climate and culture both in the classroom and across a school.
Climate & Culture at the Classroom Level
How a person feels is paramount to achievement because if a person does not feel safe, appreciated, or successful, he likely will not be motivated to work hard. He will not want to come to school at all let alone spend 6-8 hours there. On the flip side, a person who feels appreciated and feels success will work harder to continue feeling successful. It is a cycle that can be reset, and some schools are already trying to do that through PBIS and Capturing Kids’ Hearts. However, that is not enough. Students must feel that they are part of a classroom family and a larger school family. They need to feel responsible for the successes and failures in the classroom. One successful catalyst to changes in student behavior and empowerment is the Code of Cooperation as seen in the sample above. Self-control, organization, accountability, and respect are four powerful pillars to start from. Students are tasked with self-reflection and self-evaluation. Even the youngest learners can be successful doing this.
In addition to the Code of Cooperation, students often need to drill down and work on respecting one another. Often, they need to learn how to speak to one another politely and have civil discourse in a safe environment. Classroom teachers can help facilitate that through the introduction of sentence stems, blogging, and Socratic seminars. With the opportunity to use positive sentence stems, students can change the climate and culture in their schools, and this should be celebrated! (More on that here.)
In addition to treating one another with respect, each person should be celebrated at his own level with high expectations in place. Expectations is a generic term that encompasses so much: behavior, soft skills, achievement, etc. How can we do that with so many different levels in our classes? The answer is by personalizing learning and allowing students to set goals for themselves. As with yoga, we all start in different places, and we grow at our own pace. For too long, students have been passive learners sitting and getting instead of digging in and getting their hands dirty. Making decisions is a skill of which we have deprived our students. Ownership in learning is key to academic and personal growth. This can be accomplished through student goal-setting, tracking, and reflection. Too often, students don’t know where they stand in a class because the teacher controls the grade. What if the student decides what his goals for the class are based on his long-term goals for his life? What if students are given time to reflect upon their learning, failures, and successes? Ownership provides students the opportunity to care about, get involved in, and be active in their own growth.
Ownership goes beyond the individual as well. There are rules and SOPs in a full school that contribute to culture. How schools deal with behavioral issues is changing. Research shows that many behavior problems are merely reactions to boredom or frustration. The former, boredom, arises when students are not being challenged. As a result, they act out. At the classroom level, personalized learning, which is not possible without positive climate and culture, encourages a student to set his own goals for achievement and move at his own pace, thus mitigating boredom. The latter, at the other end of the spectrum, reflects the low-skilled student who feels so overwhelmed and frustrated because of skill gaps. At the classroom level, the incorporation of blended and personalized learning is key to filling these gaps. Students are allowed the time needed to master a skill with support during station rotation or targeted instruction. However, climate and culture within the classroom are not enough.
Administrators Supporting Climate & Culture
How do positive classroom changes extend into the full school? Sometimes students make bad choices and are not focused on their personal learning goals. Some student actions will warrant and office referral. How are they dealt with there? Are classroom teachers 100% responsible for climate and culture. The answer, obviously, is no. So how does an administrator contribute to climate and culture? What if student goals are reviewed during disciplinary discussions? What if someone takes the time to talk the student through how his actions are affecting his attainment, or lack thereof, of his goals? What if the student owned his actions and tried to decide whether he wanted to avoid the situation in the future and work to develop a coping mechanism for future incidents? This would take goals to a whole new level and deal with a student more holistically and on a personalized level. There would still be consequences, and the student would be involved in a fair, transparent process.
Leading By Example
A vital factor to all-school change is the administration. In business, the people at the top sell the product by their enthusiasm and belief in the product, not by ordering everyone else to walk the walk. As a result, the administrative team must be trained and believe in the change and walk the walk. Training admins in climate and culture and having them set goals empowers them to lead by example.
As a leader interested in changing the climate and culture in your school, here are some steps you can consider trying out:
- Create a tool to measure success before you start, i.e. backward design. Get feedback from teachers and admin to identify the change you want to see.
- Present the WHY with examples behind building a school-wide climate and culture that promotes student ownership, agency, and empowerment to all schools. WIIFM: What’s In It For Me is important to stress at this stage.
- Poll teachers and admin to measure interest and create a pilot or cohort group to support for the year.
- If you are a district leader, target schools that show interest in modifying school-wide climate and culture.
- Create a focus group made up of the schools with the most interest.
- Create a Climate and Culture Team at each school made up of teachers AND administrators who are invested and passionate about creating change.
- Create school-wide initiatives with the Climate and Culture Team coupled with classroom initiatives to be shared with the faculty throughout the year.
- Use the train-the-trainer model and give intense training to building-level instructional coaches who will be available for support, too.
- Track data all year with celebrations and share outs. Recognition and healthy competition are true motivators.
- Digital Badging
- Professional Development Bingo boards for freedom to jump in at your own level (see below)
- Incentives at each grade or building level
As society moves forward with technology in the 21st century, we in education need to lasso the opportunities available for support. Here are some ideas for how technology can help us help ourselves:
- Virtual trainings and webinars – you can create screencasts for asynchronous trainings that can be uploaded to EdPuzzle.com with multiple choice questions, comments, and thought questions embedded. EdPuzzle also allows us to track who has watched the video and evaluate their answers
- Teachers can videotape events in their room to share with support leaders or the Culture and Climate Team for analysis and debriefing
- Teachers can be coached virtually via Google Hangout or InMeetings.com
- Travel for teachers can be minimized by holding online meetings or webinars for teachers to share out their questions and successes
- Like students, teachers would set goals for themselves dealing with climate and culture and how they relate to achievement and behavior. The measurement tool will come in handy here, so teachers can measure their growth.
Scaling Out Positive Climate and Culture
As you try to scale out the positive changes you see, be aware of the business model dealing with adopters: Innovators, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards. Use this model to avoid getting discouraged. Figure out where each person in your school falls, and pull them onboard based on his/her category. Round one participants are the Innovators: not afraid of change, like to be first to try out new things, adaptable and open personalities. As they share their successes, the second level adopters will encompass the Early Majority: those who want to know it works and need a purpose for change. This group will be larger than the first, so additional support & resources will be needed. The third level/year will encompass the Late Majority: those who want the kinks ironed out for them and want to be absolutely sure this is not just another “flavor of the year” that will be gone in 2 years. The final group (year 4) consists of the Laggards who will either retire, leave education, or adopt only when forced.
Change is difficult for most people, and education seems to draw that personality; however, teachers historically will do anything it takes to help their students. If you can make this change about the students and not about referrals or school report cards, it will work. If you want your teachers to create a student-centered atmosphere in their classrooms, you need to revamp everything you do at at your level. If you do that well, the rest will follow.
If you are trying to encourage collaboration in your classroom and are having trouble, read on. You will see 7 steps that will help you build stronger student collaborators in collaboration activities.
What’s All the Hubbub?
Why is collaboration such a big deal all of a sudden? Everybody wants to collaborate: songwriters, businesses, school districts, teachers, and now students. What is it, and what, if anything, is its importance?
Well, as it turns out, collaboration boosts creativity and thinking. Teamwork works for big jobs and also for small jobs.
According to P21.org,
“The ability to work in teams is one of the most sought-after skills among new hires, yet research suggests that students may not be graduating with the level of skills needed to succeed on the job.”
That’s reason enough for me to start incorporating collaboration into my classes to allow my students the opportunity to practice and attain those collaboration skills.
For two years, I encouraged collaboration in all of the classes with which I worked. After awhile, I started to wonder whether all the work to set up collaboration was really that important. Then I was present for a presentation by Anthony Kim of Ed Elements. In that presentation, Kim shared some data with us from John Hattie’s Visible Learning. What caught my attention and subsequent dedication to collaboration is the graphic below.
Taken with permission from Anthony Kim’s presentation. @anthonx
In it, Hattie shows that 0.40 is the effect size for one year’s growth. The highest growth effect comes as a result of … you guessed it, peer collaboration and discussion coming in at a whopping 0.82!
That means that, according to Hattie, peer collaboration and discussion result in students learning more than twice what they would learn in a traditional classroom with a traditional teacher. Even more than differentiation and immediate feedback.
That’s worth restating. Peer collaboration and discussion result in students learning twice what they would learn in a normal year’s growth.
Whoa! That’s amazing! With growth like that, we should all be collaborating and discussing all day long, right?
Were We Successful?
Well, my teachers and I worked on collaboration in our classrooms. We learned about, planned out, tried out, and reflected on blended learning station rotation that required a collaboration station. The results were very telling.
At our end-of-the-year meeting we reported out our findings. Of our group, 95% said that the collaboration station was the least successful. Upon reflection, here’s what we surmised: students don’t need just the opportunity to collaborate; they need to be taught how to collaborate well.
How Can We Improve Collaboration?
All summer I thought about why we failed and how we could succeed. I knew there had to be a way to teach students how to collaborate well, and I processed and researched and finally put together this infographic called “7 Steps to Building Student Collaborators” (see right) for teachers to follow as a scaffold for building strong collaborators. As everything else in education, this is a work in progress, so please try it out and send me some feedback to improve it for all who might happen upon it and try it out. Here is a detailed description to help you get started. As it is a progression, feel free to jump in wherever makes the most sense for your students.
Step 1: Begin with open-ended discussion questions for the students to process their thoughts. Google Classroom is a great tool for this because the answers to Classroom discussion questions are hidden until after a student submits his/her answer. No copying, folks. What you see is what you get. Set the settings to allow students to respond. (This allows them to see other’s answers). However, you must go into the Student section and change the rights to “Only teachers can post or comment.” (see graphic) You want this because in step 2 you have to teach your students how to write an appropriate response to a post.
Step 2: Teach students what makes an appropriate, well-written response to a post. To do this, share How-To videos 1 and 2 below and Accountable Talk/Moves charts like the one below that demonstrate well-written responses, and practice, practice, practice. Maybe your students could be empowered to create their own video, blog, vlog, or infographic for others to use.
Step 3: Give students the opportunity to practice using accountable talk (found here and here), and practice responding as a whole group to one another’s posts in Google Classroom. As a modeling exercise, the teacher will type the responses as the students formulate them together. You can start out whole group and move toward small groups formulating responses as one entity. There are plenty of apps to assist you. Socrative allows students to post their answers and then vote on the best one. Google Classroom allows teachers to post a discussion question for group responses with only one person per group submitting a response. A shared Google Doc with a table can be used to share out the final group responses. A shared Google Drawing can be used with post-it note style text boxes for each group to claim and fill. Please know that once is not enough. Students need the opportunity to practice, practice, practice. Once you are confident that students know how to write group responses, change the Google Classroom settings to “Students can post and comment.” This will open up discussion questions for peer response. Once you feel confident that students understand the phraseology in writing, you need to transition to verbal responses.
Step 4: Move to an on-the-spot, think-fast, response system that requires accountable talk or sentence starters. Socratic seminars are just the activity for this. If you are not familiar with Socratic seminars, they are basically student-led discussions with the requirement that everyone has to contribute something to the discussion. The teacher is responsible for formulating questions that are open-ended and draw out student interpretations that should then be supported with text or some other data. Great Book, Junior Great Book Shared Inquiry discussions, and Fishbowl discussions are similar to a Socratic seminar. It doesn’t matter what system you use as long as students have to piggyback on one another’s responses. This is where the accountable talk comes in. It gives students the phraseology to have civil agreement and disagreement. It also encourages deeper inquiry instead of superficial analysis of a topic.
Step 5: Now that students are becoming comfortable with more academic phrases and sentence starters as a whole group with teacher monitoring, it is time to set them into small groups to monitor themselves. Create simultaneous small groups each with the same task: run your own Socratic seminar or Great Books discussion for shared inquiry. Formulate starter questions as a whole group or as small groups, and then share out before beginning the activity. Formulating questions is a skill that our students could practice more. Scaffold here as needed.
After the activity, debrief and give students time to reflect upon what went well and what could be improved. Practice these small group synchronous discussions a few more times until you and they feel confident that they could monitor themselves completely during a station rotation class period. It’s now time to move toward asynchronous collaboration.
Step 6: Today is the big day! Your students should be better prepared to rotate into a collaborative station without needing your help. This is a huge accomplishment and should be celebrated by you and your students! Your job is to create 3 or more stations: Independent, Collaborative, Teacher Directed. If you are not familiar with Blended Learning Station Rotation, check out Blended Learning Universe through the Christensen Institute.
Step 7: Finally, take time to allow students to reflect on the experience. Debrief with them to get their feedback, so together you can build a better station rotation each time.
Reflection Tools: Journal, blogs, Google Classroom, Google Forms, Think-Pair-Share, ClassKick, Nearpod, Seesaw, Vocaroo, audio recorder, video recorder, Screencastify, etc.
The Power of Feedback
If you are ready to try collaboration with your students, please try out this scaffold and send me some feedback. I’d love to hear about your successes as well as your recommendations for how, together, we can make this process better. It’s all about the collaboration, right?
Here is the infographic in case you’d like to print it out.
Previously posted on Monday, May 23, 2016, on Digital Learning Cohorts – CCSD Ed Tech
Today, Señora Stewart’s Spanish I students at West Ashley High School worked on their family naming project on iPads. Without technology it is usually a written project; however, Señora Stewart and I worked to move it from the substitution level of SAMR to modification by including audio recordings, too.
The usual project was to create a poster of their imaginary family tree with photos of their imaginary family members and Spanish naming to go with each one. For example, a student might choose a picture of Johnny Depp as her father, and his picture would be labeled “Mi padre es Johnny Depp.” Without technology, this poster project usually takes two 45 minute periods.
As a member of the CCSD Digital Learning Cohort, Señora Stewart shares a cart of iPads with another cohort member. Wanting to digitize this project, Señora Stewart decided to use the iPads. Using either Keynote or Google Slides, the students were given requirements to create their family tree with the same titles and pictures AND a 2 descriptive sentences in Spanish. At this point, the project is purely substitution/augmentation on the SAMR chart, so Señora Stewart and I worked to add something new to the project.
Because foreign language standards require heavy duty communication activities, we wanted to work in a verbal recording of the presentation. To solve this request, we decided the students could insert their slides into iMovie and then record the words on the slide for each slide. Now, we are at modification in the SAMR model.
On the day of the project launch, I met with 1/3 of the class in a quiet space to teach them how to use iMovie. It took approximately 25 minutes to go over how to personalize a Google Slide show, take and insert a screen shot, add an audio recording, lengthen or shorten the picture to match the recording, add transitions, and more.
Once the training was complete, that first group became the “iMovie Geniuses” for the class. Upon returning to the class, each Genius took on two trainees and trained them on iMovie. The students were not told to stand and teach, but some chose to.
In the end, Señora Stewart’s class doubled its skills assessed because it included both written and spoken Spanish. This type of active assessment moves students from a fun exercise to one that is more challenging because it uses 21st century skills and incorporates the 4 Cs. I am curious to see how class achievements will change as Señora Stewart becomes more confident and comfortable with the iPads and as she progresses in the Digital Learning Cohort in her district. It is time to start collecting data from the students about their interest levels and their skill levels when it comes to Spanish. There is no guarantee that student learning is improving using digital devices, and it is our job to analyze the data and share the results.
If you are interested in collaborating about World Language learning using digital devices, please do not hesitate to contact me directly or leave a comment below.
Previously posted on April 7, 2016 on Digital Learning Cohorts – CCSD Ed Tech
As an English teacher, I saw my job as teaching people to think well and write well. The thinking was not nearly as difficult as the writing portion, and after leaving the classroom to coach teachers on how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom, I realize that writing was just a byproduct of what my real job was: to teach people how to communicate effectively. Writing was just one way to effectively communicate.
With technology becoming ubiquitous in our personal, professional, and now educational lives, we have so many opportunities to communicate; learning how to communicate effectively is becoming more important than ever with the organization of ideas and the quality of speech and text being the main focus.
If organization of ideas is one of the big three factors, why does written text take precedence over spoken word? Perhaps it has been that way because writing is permanent and digital writing is searchable. However, things have changed. Now, video is streaming live through Facebook and it is searchable on YouTube. Audio is also more prominent and is also searchable. While writing used to be more permanent, it is now just as temporary as audio and video because most of it is saved digitally. So then, why are we still focused on writing as the apex of communication?
Organizing ideas for verbal communication such as a speech or a podcast is just as challenging as the written word save the grammatical hangups. For our more verbal students, organizing thoughts for speech might even be a stepping stone to better writing because the student will process the information in a way that is his strength. Just as with scaffolding, this could scaffold for a hesitant writer. Check out this slidedeck by Professor Tamika Taylor with instructions for how to prepare for a speech.
That’s where podcasting comes in. Podcasting is much like a radio broadcast. There are no images or written text. Everything is recorded in audio form. Some great examples can be found in iTunes and on StoryCorps.Org 1100+ of which have been shared on NPR.org. There are free audio apps available on all mobile devices from regular phones, to smartphones, to tablets. Apple or Android – it doesn’t matter.
Apps and Websites
For Apple users, the Voice Record Pro App is free and powerful. Among the many features it offers, it allows you to import and export from Google Drive, offers editing, and saves into multiple formats. The age label is 4+ which means it is easy enough for kindergarteners to use.
For Chromebook users, Vocaroo.com is a simple, web-based voice recorder that offers a simple record, pause, and stop dashboard. The recording is saved on Vocaroo’s servers for 2-3 months and then is deleted. It offers the user a link that can be copied and pasted to share with others. I love this app for simple checking for understanding especially for the younger children who can speak more easily than write. I have used this successfully with students as low as first grade.
The world is changing, and the good news is that it now offers us many new ways to interact and assess our students. Check out podcasting for a new and different experience.
Previously posted on Thursday, February 4, 2016, on Digital Learning Cohorts – CCSD Ed Tech
How exciting are tides and currents? Very exciting when you have an awesome teachers and Chromebooks.
Students in Keith Pridgen and Francine Brewer’s 5th grade science classes are researching tides and presenting their information in various formats. They are working both independently and collaboratively to complete the task.
To prepare technically for the unit, all users installed the Screencastify extension from the Google Web Store. This was done whole class and was completed within 5 minutes. According to the Google Web Store, “Screencastify is a simple video screen capture software (aka. screencast recorder) for Chrome. It is able to record all screen activity inside a tab, including audio. Just press record and the content of your tab is recorded. So you can easily create a screencast for video tutorials, record presentations, etc. (Learn more here). Students were directed to explore the app and then were walked through some settings to make sure it will properly download and save into Google Drive. These settings will differ based on your school’s filter settings, whether you are a GAFE school, and whether students are using Google Drive.
The unit began with a rubric for their presentation which provided voice and choice: choose your group partners, choose additional information to share, and choose the format of the final presentation. Instruction began with a brief overview of the most common terms the students needed to know. Because the teachers were using this unit as a jigsaw in which students will learn from one another, they provided the students with questions to be answered. The students completed their research independently and then collaborated to create the final presentation.
Students were given the options to present live with a slideshow (Slides), verbally through a recording (Vocaroo), or in YouTube fashion (Screencastify). Not surprisingly, this generation who cut their teeth on YouTube videos unanimously chose to do screen cast presentations.
Because the students worked at their own pace, each group progressed to different stages at different times. A group of boys was ready to attempt the screencast using Screencastify. They wanted to be the stars of the show, so they set up their Screencastify settings using the CAM tab with the built in microphone and the built in camera turned on.
After getting the webcam lined up properly, the boys started their first take few takes. See the video below.
After watching the preview, the students came up with the idea to use a second Chromebook to run as a teleprompter, so they wouldn’t be looking at their paper while recording. To complete this, the students were shown Google Docs and shared a file with one another. The next step is to complete the teleprompter file and then practice and record again.